Taken directly from Sitton’s Appleseed Newsletter:
Word Walls can be an excellent teaching tool and resource to support your students across the communications curriculum.
Some basics about best practices with Word Walls:
Word walls should be built collaboratively:
Literacy leaders consistently emphasize that word walls should be built collaboratively with students. These word collections should serve as artifacts of literacy learning. Teachers should choose the type of word wall that best supports the developmental needs of their students. Types of word walls might include those organized around spelling patterns, phonics, vocabulary, word analysis, the alphabet, concepts, and language conventions. The possibilities are endless!
- Inviting students to color code words, illustrate a symbol for words, or even write out a situation explaining the meaning of a word will allow opportunities for student choice, engagement and ownership.
Word walls are always a work in progress:
Word walls should develop over time, as concepts are taught and developed in the classroom.
For example as sounds are introduced in a Kindergarten classroom, students may pick a word or name that begins with that sound to add to the wall. This wall will continually grow.
- At a higher level, a 7th grade group exploring Greek roots might choose a word to represent the root being learned. They might underline the root and add a symbol or color that helps the group make associations to the root’s meaning. A collection or these roots built over time will be invaluable to students as they write.
Word walls should be part of the learning of spelling, vocabulary and language skills:
- By building word walls in context, students have another strong association when they refer to them. Whether words come from a phonics lesson, a literature unit, a science chapter, or a writing assignment, they should come directly from the lesson. That way, students will be able to look at the words and associate them with the many other words that have a significant relationship to the one represented on the wall. For example, 8th graders studying the Latin root press might collect words using the root, adding pressure to the “Roots Word Wall.” Knowing the Latin root can help them understand other words made up of it.
Word walls provide opportunities to practice the real-world strategy of using a reference:
- Isn’t it frustrating when students misspell word wall words that are clearly visible to them?
Literacy experts emphasize slowly building a collaborative word wall in the context of real language experiences. These best practices have proven to vastly increase the likelihood that students will actually use the word wall as a reference. Of course, students need to be taught how to use this reference. Model referring to the word wall in your own writing demonstrations. Hold students accountable for using the word wall as a spelling, vocabulary, or reading reference. Get them into the habit of referring to the word wall as they proofread and revise their writing.