Many of us Super Teachers have had Word Walls in our classrooms for years and years now. I have had one since forever! However, I have never found the Word Wall to be truly interactive for my students. Have you?
Of course, we practiced our words daily, and reviewed most of the words on a weekly basis. I would smile proudly when I found my students referring to the Word Wall during Writer’s Workshop but I always had this niggling suspicion it truly was not benefiting my students. Until I switched things up a bit and now it is TRULY INTERACTIVE!
You’re going to LOVE it!
But first this is my Word Wall 10 years ago…
When I taught kindergarten, I had a traditional word wall. Later, I was sure that I included my students’ names and their pictures (adorbs! -not pictured, of course). Shortly after, I began to include Word Family Houses. This was a HUGE stepping stone for me. The FIRST step toward an interactive Word Wall. Here is a photo of my first Word Wall:
A BIT more interactive: 3 years later…
Now, being a first grade teacher and since having begun my journey with differentiated Spelling lists with the help of Words Their Way (learn more about this journey HERE), I found the need to focus more on graphemes (spelling patterns that represent sounds) rather than simple letter sounds. So, I switched up my Word Wall. It then evolved into this:
Notice the post-its around each Long Vowel house! Yes! Those are words written by my students as they hunt for words in their decodable books that contain the current Spelling pattern they are studying! A bit more interactive, right? Yes, I was getting closer to having a truly interactive Phonics Word Wall.
But I still was not satisfied. So, the pursuit for the ideal Word Wall continued.
Today: The Truly Interactive PHONICS Word Wall…
I spent a huge amount of time this summer working on individual Word Family houses for EACH spelling pattern. For example, there is no longer just ONE word family house for each long vowel sound but, SEVENTEEN long vowel houses-one for EACH grapheme! Here is a glimpse of “Long Vowel Lane”:
I must ask you to take a closer look at one of the houses. Notice the windows are the exact same size as a 3×3 post it. Notice how the graphics all contain that ONE long vowel sound for ONE spelling pattern. In fact, you might even tell a story about the words that live in that house together. Here is another closeup of Bossy R Way for you to take a better look:
Now it gets exciting! Since I differentiate the spelling lists for my students using Words Their Way, we mainly focus on one spelling pattern a week. If I am working with 4-5 different Word Study groups, that involves 4-5 different Word Family houses!
Just WAIT! …it’s coming…
First let me explain our Read to Self routine.
When I am working with my small guided reading groups, the remaining students are assigned differentiated Word Study assignments for Word Work AND Read to Self.
As a Read to Self assignment, I provide my students with decodable readers so they can practice reading words according to that specific spelling pattern. They hunt for words, record them in their “Gumballs Collection” (a notebook that contains a page for each spelling pattern -we call them “gumballs”-I’ll explain this further in a bit) and they prepare a post-it to share their learning with the class during “Share”.
You are going to LOVE this…
After our Daily 5 center rotations, I provide my students with the opportunity to share their learning from their Read to Self assignment with the whole class. This provides the whole group with the opportunity to learn from each other. Which will expose them to 4-5 different spelling patterns!
My above-level students will have an opportunity to review what they have previously learned when an “on-level” or “below-level” Word Study group presents their learning.
On the flip-side, my “on-level” and “below-level” students will be exposed to new spelling patterns that the above-level groups present (a bit of front-loading!)
After the children share their “gumball”, we display their learning by adding their post-it to our Word Wall. We place them on the house windows or below the house for all to see and learn from. The children feel so proud to see their work displayed on the “Wall”.
In the photo below, you can see snapshots of how our Word Wall grows with four Word Study groups presenting their learning during Share Time. When they see their own words and those of their friends’ posted on the Word Wall they pay much closer attention to it and utilize it! All. Day. Long! Later, they also become excited when its their turn to add to the houses that their friends may have already contributed to!
It’s a win-win!
Did you happen to notice that each lane/road/street is…..
Be still my teacher heart!
What teacher and student doesn’t LOVE color-coding?
Let me explain this color coding phonics strategy…
My students benefit from using a color-coded system for our spelling patterns that we like to call “gumballs”. The color of the houses matches the color-coded system! It is a great way to help your students become aware of each type of phoneme and how differently they can be spelled. Once I started using “teacher language” such as digraphs, blends, and diphthongs… my students awareness of spelling patterns truly improved.
This simple color-coding strategy has proven to be a HUGE help to my students when identifying graphemes (spelling patterns to represent sounds) in their reading AND applying these spelling rules in their own writing! I cannot begin to explain how well this works for my students and how much they enjoy it. I urge you to try it! You can learn more about Gumball Phonics™ HERE.
If you would like to implement a truly interactive Phonics Word Wall in your classroom, there are SIX different Word Wall sets available at my TpT shop. You can find them HERE.
or pin it for later:
I hope you have found this information helpful. After teaching the primary grades for over a decade now, I have a lot to share. Be sure to try the color-coded system called Gumball Phonics™ to help your young readers identify spelling patterns in their reading and their writing! It helps tremendously! And it is FREE!