Monday, September 14, 2015

Vocabulary, Word Walls, High Frequency Words - Oh My!

How do you introduce, organize, and maintain your word wall, vocabulary words, and high frequency words?  
The word wall in my classroom has evolved over the years.  Several years ago elementary teachers were required to have a word wall in their classrooms.  So everyone I quickly made room for a word wall that eventually got covered up with something else, forgotten, or taken down.  That process went on for a while.  

Fast forward to last year.  I started the year with a high frequency word wall.  It was inspired by lots of Pinterest searches.  Each ring has many word cards based on second grade sight words.  I had my students color all the alphabet letter covers (great for student ownership).  This picture shows our word wall later in the school year. 

During the first days of school I made sure we used the high frequency word wall to help spell words.  For example, if a student didn't know how to spell - school.  We figured out the beginning sound of the word.  Took the 's' ring off the hook and searched for the word - school.  Since the words are second grade level words, many of the students are able to read the words.  I've found that flipping through the ring of words at their desks is so much easier than writing a word and circling it because they weren't able to spell it correctly.  Or asking me how to spell words because they want everything to to perfect (even on a sloppy copy).  (I have to work on that strategy.)  Anyway, we used star post-it notes to identify the vowels (great reference for my kiddos).

You'll notice the post-it notes below the word card rings.  If a student has looked for a word and it is not on the ring and if I am circulating around the room they may ask me to spell the word.  I write the word on a post-it note and hang it under the letter.  Periodically through the year I make new cards to put on the rings and take the post-it notes away.   If I don't have time to make the word cards, no worries, I can just leave the post-its on our word wall.  I like that students see the word wall as a tool we use and the word wall changes over time, just like they change.

When we have theme or season specific words the students and I generate a list of words.  This list is written on chart paper and hung near our high frequency word wall.  Then after awhile I would take the list down and make a new one for a new theme or season.

It felt a little disjointed to just throw the list away mostly because maybe we could some of the same words over again.  Thanks to Pinterest again I stumbled across this type of word wall. 

I wanted to get this up and running last year but as you know time doesn't always allow a teacher's ideas and desires to fully develop.  So, here I am at the start of a new school year and have this ready to go!
How will I use this word wall?  Remember I said that I threw away theme/season lists we generated.  Here is where I will write the words on cards and place the words in the corresponding cups.  
Since our school district has made a decision to have uniform colors for various subject areas, I'll organize the words by subject. 

This is our district's plan:
Reading - red
Language Arts - purple
Math - yellow
Social Studies - blue
Science - green

Finally, while I was attending a reading workshop last year this great idea was presented.  It is called a Word or Vocabulary Jar.

Here's how it works - if a new or unfamiliar vocabulary word is presented during instruction time it will be recorded and placed in the jar.  I write the word with marker on one side of the paper and on the other side I write what the word means or an example/drawing.  For example, if triangle is written then on the back I would draw several examples of triangles and write a three sided shape.

If we have a couple of extra minutes I'll grab the word jar pull out a paper and read the word to the class.  They tell the definition or draw an example.  Since the words are on various colors of paper the students know which subject area the word comes from.  Students love 'playing' the word jar game as they call and I love the spiral review our word jar provides.

That's how we do words in our second grade classroom!

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