You can’t have too many word walls…

I have several word walls in my room. Aside from a math word wall and one for shared reading, I also have these: one is my area for words kids are always asking to spell, which includes mostly sight words, beneath that is my bunch of school-related visual word cards for newcomers. My primary word wall is the one with the trophy; on it are the “award-winning” tier 2 words that comes from read alouds, shared reading, conversations, etc. I also have listed “super synonyms”, which are to help kids discover more words for commonly-used words. For this, they suggest the word and we use a thesaurus to discover and list alternatives. Finally, on our window are the “boring” or most commonly-used words we are trying to use less.

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9 thoughts on “You can’t have too many word walls…

  1. Pingback: Obviously Amazing | From the Desk of Mr. Foteah

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  3. I’m sorry, but I am still having trouble understanding how anyone learns from a wall. Walls are used for structural support, sound dampening, privacy, and for dividing space. I was under the impression that we read, write and speak to learn to communicate. Why is it that people who learned from books have much better vocabularies than those learning from walls?
    We have got to stop putting on “shows” and return some sanity to our classrooms. Things posted on walls are either for decoration or to impress the casual observer. They do not teach our students.

    • And children who already speak English also have larger vocabularies and acquire advanced words faster than children who don’t. Children who have friends or family members to practice English with also do much better. Children who are taught first how to read and write in their first language also do much better. Children who have gone to school since age 5 also learn to communicate in academic English faster. Those are not my students. So, let’s move beyond the obvious basics and teach the children who are in front of us by meeting their actual needs.

      Just plopping my kids in front of books they can’t read makes as much sense as talking louder so they understand me when I speak.

      Children who don’t speak a language don’t just read, write and speak it magically. And we certainly shouldn’t remove supports that work simply because something else is “supposed” to work better. Children, thank goodness, do not fit in neat boxes we can label and stick aside when what is “supposed” to work fails them.

      Children learning a language need resources, and we are far past the era of dictionaries. They come in very far behind their native-speaking counterparts by thousands of words. Why limit them to only learning from books they can read which only contain basic sight words? That reduces their exposure to words by a huge margin. They need oral language before they can learn to read, but we don’t have time to teach at such a slow pace.

      Children who are taught well how to use word walls, use them by, for example, remembering we are learning words that have deeper meanings aside from just “happy”, go over to the happy word and see “content” (which they now know is also a multimeaning word), or “pleased”. So, even if they are still only reading the word “happy” because their English hasn’t advanced or they are struggling readers, they just learned and can now use in their speaking and writing, a more grade-level appropriate word.

      Not to mention children tend to be visual learners.

      It’s only a “show” in the sense you mean it when it’s on the wall and ignored by teachers. Same goes for charts or anything else.

      It’s funny, my husband came to my class one day recently, after having criticized similar things I do as “fluff” he didn’t need when he was a student. He came and he worked with some students on understanding fraction parts of a whole using a paper with hexagons drawn on it. But he didn’t use pattern blocks. After 15 minutes of teaching the students in their FIRST language, they were still confused. I came over and after 5 minutes with the blocks, the children were working independently and successfully. That is the same goal with word walls. Why should a student waste time asking around or asking me how to spell something when they can go look on the wall? Even if it serves the function of a subliminal ad, it’s better than only putting decorations.

      It’s about teaching students independence, and it’s about us understanding the kids we teach.

      • Well said!

        And I loved the “Banish” word wall! I would always have my class brainstorm and use thesaruses to come up with synonyms for those kinds of words that we would post and keep up all year. But yeah, “nice”, “good”, “bad”, “sad”, etc. were banned! :)

      • It’s a fun way to get them to make conscious choices about the words they use. Someone recently commented about having a word graveyard, which I think is so smart. Isabel Beck’s book has a great idea of creating a “shades of meaning tree”. I’m not artsy enough :). I have also heard of teachers who use paint samples, to teach the same concept.

  4. Word walls need to be useful, we have to think about what works for them and what doesn’t. Secondly, we need to stop assuming that students KNOW how to use the word walls., if we do not take the time to teach them HOW to use it (them) it becomes decoration. I too have at least 4 word walls in my room. I teach newcomers and lord knows my kids need the support they can get in order to learn a second language. I also believe that these words should hold meaning, (I oppose teacher’s college ‘sight’ or dolch word walls) so this year, I decided to include 50% nouns with pictures, 25% reading/writing units related words and only about 10% sight words. I find that my kids need much more than just sight words. If my class was actually literate in their native language, I would actually include the translation and cognates (that’s how I learned English when I came 11 years ago. I was I. High school). I have rule, they are not allowed to ask me to spell words for them. I can strectch the sounds with them but they must be the authors. They must take charge of their own learning. Finally, pictures, pictures, pictures AND make connections, either to prior knowledge or their everyday lives. If one fails to do so, then it becomes dust-catching decoration. Think about the kind of learners you have and what works best for THEM. Lastly, be open to changes. If something doesn’t work, change it! No need to wait until the next school year.

  5. Pingback: Ways of using word walls | efl-resource.com

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