Years ago, back in my classroom days, interactive word walls were the centerpiece of my classroom literacy instruction. Finding the real estate in my classroom to display my word wall was the tricky part. I dedicated one entire side of my classroom (around windows, clocks, center tables, bulletin boards) so that I could display all of our high frequency words in reading and writing. My students knew that when a new story was introduced, so was a new phonics skill, along with new words that we would be reading and writing from that point on.
I wish I could find some pictures of my word wall…it was a sight to be seen! Colorful, alphabetized, geometrical, and organized chaos! It would start out as a blank ABC canvas and organically morph into a splatter of gorgeous words! Each word was written in dark black marker on brightly colored construction paper, then cut into the shape of the word, laminated and placed on its spot on the wall for the year. However, I was recently cleaning out my storage room and came across my words! They were in an accordion file, all organized and pretty!
Each week, new words emerged and my students interacted with them in games, reading, and writing.
According to Patricia Cunningham (2012), who is credited with inventing the word wall, “the word wall is an area in the classroom where words are displayed -– but not just any words -– truly important ones. They are systematically organized and a tool designed to promote group learning.” A word wall consists of words that young children frequently see when reading and use when writing. She emphasizes that it is not enough to just have a word wall. You have to do a word wall.
My first experience with Word Walls was when my school implemented Patricia Cunningham’s 4-Block Model for literacy instruction. She was an huge proponent of implementing word walls. I would constantly reference the words, look for patterns, syllables, vowel pairs, blends, digraphs, rhymes, parts of speech…I would play “I’m thinking of a word…” and my students would intently search the wall trying to read my mind! Building vocabulary, creating confidence, and allowing for collaboration was a highlight of the word wall.
So, now I’ve started one at home with my own kids. My daughter, who’s in Pre-k is
learning the pre-primmer dolch words this year. I’ve begun to create her words for our word wall in my kitchen. Each day, we’ll play a game using the words and she’s becoming more familiar with them right now in isolation. When we read, I intentionally pick out the words during story time that she’s been exposed to, and she feels like she’s a reader! I will say “I’m thinking of a word that has a “b” sound at the front of it. Can you find me that word?” She will find one, identify the “b” sound at the front and tell me the name of the word. Then, we’ll say a sentence with that word. Making it all meaningful, spontaneous, fun, and frequent, will hopefully help her love words!
What are you doing in your classroom with Word Walls? How are you interacting with the words and making it playful and relevant for your students?
FYI…You don’t have to be a literacy teacher to have a word wall! I love seeing Math, Science, Social Studies, Languages splattered all over the walls in classrooms that I visit!