Creating word wall families from the words on your classroom walls is a fun and creative way for children to work with them in a new and different way. Thinking critically about the words and placing them in categories is particularly strong when students develop their own categories according to criteria they have created.
The activity of categorizing resides in one of the highest tiers of Bloom’s taxonomy. When combined with designing and creating a home for a word wall family, this activity provides an opportunity for children to use word wall words to think critically and be creative at the same time.
The addition of a writing component to explain the design elements in the house and how they meet the needs of specific family members make Word Wall Families an activity of exceptionally high quality.
First we look at the word wall together and talk about words that are related to each other. There may be synonyms such as power and exponent as well as antonyms like add and subtract. Careful questioning can be used to help children expand their thinking to entire word families.
The most obvious answers to the question, “What words are related to sum?” would of course be add or addition. The list may then be extended to words concerning the other operations as well so that a word family develops as follows:
Students are asked to create three families of words from the words on the word wall. I require that there be at least seven words in each family (which presents an opportunity to use the inequality f is greater than or equal to 7!!) The number required for each family would depend on how many words appear on your current word wall and also the age and grade level of your students.
It is important for students to identify the criteria they used to create each category. I require that they put this into words because the more language they must use, the better.
When they have created all three families, I ask them to choose their favorite and design a house especially for them with features which meet the needs of each family member. They must then write a page explaining the design elements of the house and how they were chosen.
The creativity shown by my sixth grade math students has been astounding, as you can see from the samples of student work in the right column.
Below is a snapshot of the two-page lab sheet I created for this activity. Clicking on either page will take you to a PDF version which you may print and use with your own students. Feel free to modify it to suit your needs and the grade level of your students.
LET THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
This student chose wall words to create a "Shapes" family and designed a house just for them. The most interesting and creative feature of this house is a "Line of Throposity" which "divides day and night."
Notice that each family member is a geometric shape. One of the children, a trapezoid, is standing beside the front door.
This student has given much thought to details, including chaise lounges beside the pool for each member of the family.
In this house there is a room for each family member. Everything in the triangle's room is shaped like a triangle, for example.