Word walls are the best method for teaching Dolch sight words and content area vocabulary
Word walls are a wonderful method for teaching Dolch and other basic sight words. They are also ideal for building content area vocabulary such as math vocabulary. A variety of activities, games, and songs give kids the essential practice they need for mastery. Built together over time, they grow and change almost daily.
THE GOOD NEWS
The best news is that they work - if you provide opportunities for children to practice, read, sing, and play games with the words. Some of our favorite activities are Word
in which students apply for custody of their favorite words, and
during which students search for specific categories. Students may also create their own
Word Wall Families,
an activity which requires that students group words together into "families" and design houses to meet their individual needs.
With budget cuts in education and teachers being furloughed in many states (my state included!), I don't have to tell you that money is tight. So another good thing about this instructional gem is that there is practically no cost!
Forget premade cards and commercially packaged walls because they just aren't as effective as those to which children are allowed to contribute themselves. Starting the year off with their names places it in their
right from the start. Children pay far more attention and enter into the learning much more when they feel that the walls are about them.
Those walls you and your students build together will be the most effective. Allowing students to contribute words to the collection gives them ownership and their participation will increase.
Here is what you will need:
- 4x6 index cards
- Black markers
Unruled 4x6 index cards are perfect for me. Words should be written in black letters at least three inches tall so they can be clearly seen.
Index cards are ideally suited both for practicing and for playing games with the cards before they are placed on the wall. Remember that students must be given opportunities to read and spend time with the words.
If there is no money for index cards, not to worry - teachers are the most resourceful people I know! We can make pieces of paper or card stock work, too!
One word: Sharpies! We love 'em, don't we?
We have had so much fun using different kinds of pointers to read words on our walls! Our favorites include a very cool
Star Wars light saber
and some equally cool
mouse laser pointers,
both of which require careful supervision (I don't have to tell you that, of course!)
toys and gadgets
such as these once again places the learning in their
so the activity has meaning for them.
Basic meter or yard sticks work well for some activities, and the children seem to enjoy using those as well. Use your imagination - one teacher I know used a fishing rod to point to words high on her wall. The kids loved it!
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Word walls can be located anywhere - on walls, cabinets, doors, hallways, and even windows. Generally speaking, it is best for word cards to be placed parallel to the floor and words to be printed by hand in black print on a white background, as described above. Building several word walls around the room is a good idea.
You might, for example, have first grade Dolch words on one wall and animal words on another with each child suggesting the name of an animal. This is a good opportunity to improve memory with questions like, "Do you remember whose word this was?" and "Who remembers which word was Natalie's?"
Your goal is to help children learn close to 1000 words per year, but remember that just putting them on the wall is not going to help you - or them - reach that goal. Words must be practiced and
Classroom Word Wall
Second Grade Dolch Words in a hallway
Third Grade Vocabulary Words on Window
Practice Makes Perfect
Children enjoy reading words from the wall. My basic procedure with small groups in K - 3 is to point to the words in a row and have everyone read them together. I give the pointer to a student to read the same words backwards, he gives it to another person to read the row again, and so on until all 5 or 6 children have read the words.
It is important to note that when reading words from the wall, it is not a problem for them to read from right to left. In fact, it strengthens the learning of sight words which are taken as individual words. Words should be read in columns also, in which case the children alternate reading up and down.
It is also important to note that words must be moved around so that children do not just repeat the words from memory.
Sight word games
and activities give variety to this essential practice, and since they are fun, they are very enthusiastic and happy during this time. Since learning and memory are associated with emotion, they are definitely worth checking out!
math word walls
are also a lot of fun for elementary and middle school students. And you can boost your state test scores by creating a special word wall specifically for
testing vocabulary and keywords.
No matter what the subject area,
wall words must support reading.