While doing classroom visits in the beginning of the year, there is almost always evidence of word walls in schools. In the particular school where I was visiting, I was charged with an interesting challenge I never had before and that it is to help my teachers make their word walls come alive. Hmmmm….. how do you use a word wall? Is a place that the students actually notice and use the words on the wall? How do you decide what words are wall worthy? How do you bring attention to a word that you believe your students really need to know? I am going to need your help on this one because I never had this charge before. This “tuesdays” is dedicated to the word wall concept and how to make it more interactive.
A creative website
Although there is no single website this week, I search for a variety of uses of word walls. Surprisingly, most word wall websites are from 1998- 2003 and yet I am still seeing word walls in all schools I visit. Are they valuable? Are they just a good habit? How can we make them essential? In this digital age, I would like to “upgrade” a class word wall with interactivity. I think there is really value in keeping word walls physically displayed in the classroom, but giving the students an opportunity to work with the words digitally will make them come alive. As you add words to your wall, also create a digital word wall that runs like rolling announcements across your interactive board anytime you are not actively teaching with it or when the students are not using it. This very minimal exercise helps the students “see” the words again and again. Word walls are ageless so no matter what grade level you teach, the key importance of an effective word wall is student buy-in. Do they have their own word walls? Why not have them create digital word walls of their own in a variety of mediums. If you don’t have the technology or your students are too young to create their own word walls, they can draw! Digitize those drawings and then addmtheir priceless voices to a picture slide show. The most important goal of a word wall is use. If your word wall, is just sitting on the wall and you are the only one interacting with it, upgrade it.
An interactive word wall in Smart Notebook
“As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
I would really like to encourage you to add comments to this post because the art of word walling is not obvious. I am not an expert, but I do know that students are very creative with technology and if you gave them the charge to make a specific word come alive, they would come up with something totally out of the box. Being interactive with a word wall doesn’t even have to be digital. Create a chant, clap or song when a new word is entered on the wall and have the students chant, clap or sing. Have a rhyming challenge, make up sentences leaving a word out and have them say to word aloud, be a mind reader and give gentle clues until the mystery word is found. You can even make a Bingo game putting all the words on a Bingo card and playing just before the end of the day or just before lunch. The point is to bring attention to the word wall so it is not just a display. Our hope is always that the students refer to the wall often and sometimes we just need to jumpstart that.
How do you do that?
How do you create a digital word wall? All our classrooms have digital recording capability whether it’s audio or video. Start with audio. Begin a collection of short sentences that the students record their own voice. Have the students create drawings that represent the words. Take a digital image of the drawings and have the students use the drawings and audio to create a video word wall. One of the simplest ways to create a visual word wall is to have the students design Paper Slide video word walls. If you decide to have your students do a digital word wall of your physical word wall, be sure to give them lots of options and you will be surprised at their creativity.
As always, I am