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!
10 thoughts on “A True Interactive Phonics Word Wall”
I do LOVE this! I have done something very similar for my kinders for the vowel sounds. This is amazing! It will go really well with my word family coloring pages that I made for my kiddies ��
Everything about this is fantastic…the explanation, the color coding, the houses, the gumballs, the interaction…love, love, love! No wonder it took 8 years creating this. This is such a great resource for k-1 teachers. What a fantastic display for your students that is meaningful and effective! I bet a lot of teachers need direction with interactive word walls and you did all the work. I think teachers are going to LOVE this. This kind of resource benefits both teachers and students. Great work!
I love the gumballs and interactive phonics wall!!!
Any ideas on how to use the wall if you have a very small room!
Thoroughly enjoying your website and ideas. Thanks for sharing!!!
I’m so happy to hear that you find the blog useful! I’ll tell you, the Phonics Word Wall was a huge game-changer for my phonics instruction! Along with the color-coded Gumball Phonics!
The Word Wall does take up quite a bit of space if you hang all of the houses. There are other options that might suit a smaller classroom size:
-print the houses 2 to a page and use the smaller sized post-it notes.
-simply display the houses as you work on the phonics skil
-display one road/lane at a time. The kids might enjoy “moving” from street to street!
-print the houses to create a book and refer to it as needed.
-project them on your smartboard during your lessons
I’m glad you brought this up, because I often wondered if this was a concern for some teachers. If you have any suggestions or ideas please let me know, I am always working on improving the system and making it better for our students!
Thank you for your comment and feedback! You made my day!
Awesome ideas! Thank you!!! I can’t wait to use them! 🙂
Do you wait to put up houses as you introduce them to the various groups working on that pattern or do you put it all up from the beginning? I tend to wait to put things on my wall until I have talked about it with my students, but with doing differentiated groups that could become a nightmare logistically. On the flip side, that is a lot of houses to put up without any explanation to the students…
Great question! Like you, I used to wait to display lesson objectives and visuals for my students WHEN I presented that new learning to my students. However, I do put up the entire Phonics Word Wall right at the start of the year! This is why….
There are many benefits to doing so. First of all, having all the houses on display all year will allow your students to independently reference the phonemes during Writer’s Workshop and when decoding new words. The more they are exposed to the spelling rules, the better. It is like “front-loading”!
You will be amazed how much the children study the Phonics Word Wall and study the illustrations on each house that give them clues. For example, the students will know that /er/ makes the same sound in each of the words: brother, mother, father and sister because there are pictures of the family togethER! Teehee!
Also, during my lessons or individual conferences, if I notice that a child/class is struggling with a phoneme, such as words that end in the long a sound, I take a minute and address the spelling pattern instead of addressing it ONLY when it comes up in our curriculum later in the year. Why wait? They need to know NOW! I simply say to them, “I’m not supposed to teach you this until later in the year, do you think you can remember that when you hear long a at the end of a word, it is probably /ay/? And they nod their heads, take on the challenge and are proud that a new house on the word wall is just for them! This is highly motivating for them! They feel like such smart cookies!
I hope this helps, Bryne. Let me know if you have any other questions! I love to chat about phonics!
I can’t get a good idea of how much space I need for this resource. Approximately how many feet long do I need? Thanks!
Love this! I plan on using it for my class this year 🙂 I am wondering, do you put all lanes up at the beginning of the year? Or do you start with a particular one then swap it out when their reading for a new skill? Could you post a photo of what yours looks like?!
I keep the houses on display all year so we can refer to them throughout the day.. Here is a YouTube video of a tour of my classroom.
Other teachers have said they “layer” the roads in one area so that it resembles a town. I have them spread around the perimeter of my classroom.
Thank you for inquiring! 🙂