Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why I Tore Down My Word Wall {& a freebie}

Hey There!

Today I have to speak from my teacher heart.

It might be controversial.

You might disagree.  

I might be wrong.                                           

Word walls. You know the kind with a bank of sight words.

If you are a K-2 teacher, I bet you have one.

Me too, I mean, had a word wall.

You see, last year I ripped mine off the wall.


In theory, word walls sound very effective to me. You introduce a few new words. You practice the new sight words. Then after a week or so you slap those puppies up on the word wall for your student’s reference for the remainder of the school year.  

Students will work the word wall. They can play I spy or word detective games. They will constantly be exposed to the print and the words will seep into their brains. While independently writing their little brains will be capable of spelling those tricky words (they, said, want...) because they will just remember it is a sight word and look at the word wall.

In theory, this is why I have had a word wall for years and years and years.

Then last year I ripped it off my wall.

Say what?

I decided to put a portable word wall on EVERYTHING!

I had previously made a list of sight words organized in alphabetical order for my students. 

I had mounted a copy on my students’ writing folders.


Click the picture to see more! 

I had them glued to the back of their homework folders. 


Editable Homework Newsletters and Folders (click picture)


But we needed more!

So I mounted on construction paper, laminated, and taped the mini word wall onto my students’ tables.




I placed multiple copies at my writing center.

I created monthly hidden sight word games for them to interact with at the word work center.


Monthly Hidden Sight Words~ Click the picture to see more info! 


Basically, mini word walls here, mini word walls there, mini word walls everywhere!

Here is what I have noticed: 
My students are more frequently looking at their word wall.  While they are writing and stuck on a word, they are more frequently stopping to search for the high frequency word they need. 

I am not sure what the difference is? My only guess it that having the list taped down to their tables is SO MUCH EASIER for them to look at than looking across the room? Or maybe it is that they see the laminated mini word wall on their desk ALL.DAY.LONG?? 

What ever it is, I am thankful they are finally using their word wall to spell those tricky words. :) 

So there you have it, if I have my way I will never take up precious wall space again for a giant word wall that no one gives any love. 

If you like this "mini word wall" you can download it for FREE by clicking the picture! 




I'd love to hear any comments you have on word walls. Do you have one? Do you have any amazing strategies you have found to help your students learn those darn sight words? 

Thanks for reading :) 

33 comments:

  1. I did the same as well two years ago! I didn't see the point of having one on the wall when they never used it. I love the idea of taping them on the tables and on their home folders! My students have an office and dictionary where they look them up but putting it in more places is a great idea!

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  2. I had one that was magnetic on the white board so the students could take the word off of the word wall and take it back to their seat. My cooperating teacher (a long time ago) had one that was attached with velcro so students could take the word off. It is silly for the students to get out of their seat, go look at the word, go back to their seat, write the one or two letters they remember, go back and search for the word on the wall again and go back to their seat etc..

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  3. I'm a reading specialist and totally agree with having it at their finger tips. In many rooms there is so much up on the walls students don't know which way to look! Using my Title money I purchased a stand that lets me hang posters so I can flip to the one needed for that lesson.

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  4. I agree with you. I am a Resource Room teacher and my students often have great difficulty scanning the wall from their seats and getting that info from their eyes, into their brain and then correctly transferred to their paper. I have given them all a portable list. The next step is asking the Gen Ed teachers about taping these down to their desks. I made the word wall in my room on a few taped-together-tri-folds that sit on the floor so the kids can bring it to the table or sit on the floor and look at it. I also have them available at the table. I agree with Eenie, there are so many things hanging in classrooms - way too much sensory input for my student with learning disabilities and cognitive impairments!

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    1. Good considerations for a general education teacher!

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  5. Great idea! For years I have had issues with word walls. I didn't think they were that helpful to students really. We'd say "well what does 'favorite' start with?" Student would then look for /f/, but then never sure from there. So I went to making a Sound Wall. First grade is about those sound teams! HOLY MOLY was it so much better for the kids. They could hear the /ou/ and look for the two ways to make it and then be able to find it in there. Student's helped me make pictures to correspond. Way way way more effective. This year after the school year started I was moved out of 1st and down to Kinder. So I went back to the old fashion word wall way for the time being. I shall figure out something way better at some point!

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    1. Have you found a way to incorporate the "sound" wordwall in Kinder?

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  6. I love this! Of course now that I'm in third I don't use one anyway but when I taught first for years I struggled with the word wall as well. I had similar easy access word walls in several places too and they used it more. It makes sense to me girly. Happy new year! xox
    Vicky

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  7. I agree with you. My wall space is limited and my room is long and narrow. My word wall was too far away for kids to see. I attach one to my writing folders and they have a "pictionary" for reference as well.

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  8. I absolutely love this idea. It will be less distracting than them standing at my word wall rather than in the spot where they are working. Excellent idea. I will be implementing this next year.

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  10. Yay! It's so nice to hear that I'm not the only one who took down the "Word Wall". There are better ways! Thank you for sharing. :)

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  11. I love this idea! My only concern is when I test my 1st Graders on spelling these sight words. How do you handle that?

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    1. Maybe make a cover for the words that are on the table. I would try using laminated black construction paper and use washi (paper)tape or sticky tack to keep it in place temporarily.

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    2. I think another thing to consider: if students are using the wordwall as a reference to check that they spelled the word correctly on a spelling test, is that a "bad thing?"

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  13. I totally agree with you. Students do better when the word lists are on their desks, tables, or work areas. They are portable, movable. I use my mini lists more and the kids like them so much better.

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  14. I have thought about taking mine down for years now, with Kinders especially getting up and down and having that NOT distract them from their work is a constant battle. What a great idea!

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  15. OK I see your points on this (although sometimes I think my Kinders NEED to get out of their seat and get a little exercise on their way to finding a word), but here is my question: An important thing about a word wall is that it grows as kids are introduced to and held responsible for new words. So in September there are only a few words, and by January and then June there are a many more. How do you efficiently add to the mini-word walls as new words are taught, so that the "June Words" aren't on the lists to confuse the kids in September or December or January?

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    1. Hi, I think there is a HUGE difference between Kindergarten and First grade readers/writers. With that being said, I do teach a few words a week to my 1st grade students in small groups BUT I believe it would be a disservice to them to limit access to all the basic sight words until the end of the year, that is why I am giving them access to all the words a month or so into the school year. Once I have taught the words, there is an expectation they spell them correctly in their writing. This works for me and my population of students I teach. It may not work for everyone and I believe we are professionals who have to make the best INTENTIONAL decisions for our students. Hope that helps!

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  16. I am just reading this tonight as I found it looking for activities for summer school. I am an occupational therapist and I service K-12. I applaud you. Two reasons. First of all Word Walls = extreme visual clutter in the classroom which results in visual sensory overload to so many students and we may not even realize it. Second, it is quite possible students were using the word wall less because so many students struggle with visual motor integration and oculomotor skills. These skills are required in order to discriminate and locate desired words at a far distance and copy (using convergence and divergence of the eyes). I love the new ways you are using many mini-word walls. I may be an OT but have a huge place in my heart and an enormous amount of appreciation for you teachers! :-)

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    1. I agree! I teach resource and try to keep the visual clutter to a minimum. When I see crazy word walls I cringe

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  18. I am so glad I came across this! I teach first grade and have always had a huge word wall bulletin board in my classroom. This September we are going to a brand new building..yay. But we are not allowed to put anything on the walls in fear of paint coming off and there are only two small bulletin boards in the room. I have been thinking all summer about what I am going to do in terms of my word wall. I think this will be the solution!

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    1. Glad to see other first grade teachers thinking the same thing. I am also in a new building with limited bulletin boards. We are allowed to tape up, but, NOTHING sticks to the walls! Command strips, duct tape, shipping tape, nothing! Short of having to staple my word wall up, I am thinking of doing this solution -- do you have any other solutions for decorating the classroom without being able to stick to the walls? I am dying for ideas! Have a good year!

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  19. I am so excited to use this in my classroom this year! I have been searching for an alternative to the traditional word wall and I think this will definitely work. Over the years, I have found that my world wall gets sort of lost in the room. I think my students will benefit more from having a "mini word wall" thats easily accessible to them instead of having to look up at a bulletin board.

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  20. I am new to first grade where all the teachers I work with have Word Walls. How do you manage the "rebuttal" of having not taught the word yet before making it available to the students?

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    1. Hi Eileen, I think if you make decisions with INTENTION you can never go wrong. My teammates all have a WW but don't have issues (at least that I know of) that I do not. If I am approached about it, I would explain EVERYTHING else I am doing to support my students. Hope that helps :)

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    2. I think Eileen is asking the same thing I asked back on July 1st. When you put a whole iist of words on paper and hand it to the kids, it defeats one of the main purposesand commitments of a word wall, which is that the kids are responsible for using the words without asking because THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAUGHT THE WORD, it's spelling, and it's meaning. If I give them a card with the 50 words I want them to know by the end of the year, but I give it to them in September, they are looking at a confusing jumble of letters that are not meaningful to them, so asking them to use the list and find the word they need, is confusing and counterproductive.

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    3. OOOO, I hope this post did not come off as I don't teach the sight words! I definitely teach sight words to my students on an individual as needed basis (usually in small groups and with individual sight word lists). My students always practice sight words in some sort of literacy activity during work work each week. :)

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  21. Just an idea....what if the complete sight word list was given/posted one month into school, but as each sight word is learned, the students highlighted that word on the list? Students would be expected to correctly spell all highlighted words on the list.

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  22. As I sit here pouring over pintrest looking for ideas for a word wall in a room with no space for a word wall I finally think - Yeah! I used a sight word board (tri-fold project boards) in kindergarten where our sight words (multiple copies) were posted in library pockets so that students could take the words to their spots to use and then replace them in the pocket when done. I like this method, my kindies liked this method (it's got the move about factor included). I took it out and it sat on the floor when we needed it. We could move it freely about the room and put it where it best fit our writing needs and fold it up and put it away when we needed space for other activities. However, I've just graduated to grade one and my teaching partners all have large, fancy, pretty, word walls. I feel the pressure! I just have no space in my room where I could incorporate an interactive word wall. This discussion gives me renewed spirit...good bye stationary word wall, hello portable and individual word walls. I like the highlighting idea, it gives them ownership of their lists.

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