When I started teaching, word walls were the “go to” standard of a primary and junior classroom. More recently, I have noticed that they are becoming a thing of the past.
More and more teachers are realizing that students need individualized content and what one child needs, others do not. As a result, I have seen personal dictionaries become the standard in primary and junior grades, especially in discussion groups with teachers in large Facebook groups..
In kindergarten, my colleagues have very different views about this. That is okay. Classes should not all be the same. Nor should they ever be. How we meet our students’ needs will vary based on their individual needs! Some teachers love co-creating word walls with their students and their students become very adept at using them.
I’ve had word walls that mainly the older students will reference but have come to realize, for me, that it is a big piece of real estate in my classroom that not all students can reference. As a result, this past year I started to use personal word walls. We would use it during guided reading and during our small group writing activities.
The images above give examples of beginning words that I would automatically include for new readers or beginning readers. I purposefully include the alphabet with lower case letters because that is what we write with most of the time and many children often have a hard time transitioning from upper to lower case letters.
How do I use them?
Each word wall is glued onto card stock for durability for two years. On the back, I include personalized words for each child like family members or pet names.
I start with around 10 basic words all students should be able to read at first. Then, I write all new words on each students word walls as they are introduced during guided reading. Also, if I notice that they can read or write a word that is not included on the chart I will add it.
At the beginning of guided reading, students read all the words on their word wall as a refresher. This helps them become very acquainted with where words are and helps to boost their instant recall.
Small Group Writing:
When students are writing they are encouraged to get their word wall. I always teach writing in small focused groups so that I can focus on each students learning as we are learning.
I often will prompt students with a question and prompts similar to the following:
"What do you want to write about today using the words you know on your word wall? You can write about anything you want! You could write, 'I see mom.' or 'I like the beach.' or 'I like to play soccer.' or 'I love my dad.' What do you want to write about today?"
FYI: I point to the words on their word wall as I give suggestions to model using the word wall.
I may give a variety of suggestions like the ones listed above and children do find this helpful as a first prompt but ultimately I find that children always have their own ideas. It is very rare that I find they copy an example that I have prompted them with.
Check this out:
If you’re interested in implementing something similar you can click the image above to check out the templates that I use. There are more options included in this than I describe in this blog post.