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October 23, 2015 Birth of a Middle School Word Wall By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 6–8

    Last year, at the end of the school year, I asked my students to reflect on what worked well and what could use some tweaking. I requested that they be honest because their comments would help to make my teaching better for my new students in September. There were many comments on how to improve the classroom economy system, floor plan, and library systems. And to be honest, they gave me some food for thought. But one topic especially resonated with me: the reader’s notebook.

    I had included a glossary section of the notebook filled with literacy terms. In giving me their full critique of things that didn't work for them, my students let me know that they didn't appreciate the glossary. Their comments revolved around the idea that it just took up space because we rarely used it as a resource.

    I am still on a journey to create the ultimate notebook that works for my students and me. After hearing their comments, I knew that I had to make some changes. I also knew that I wanted to create a way to have the glossary be a part of everyday school life for my class. And so it happened: the birth of the Literacy Terms Word Wall.

     

     

     

    From Glossary to Word Wall

    I realized that even though I did not utilize the glossary last year, we were still using the terms. I took a look at the curriculum that we used and noticed how many terms were embedded throughout the units of study. Not only that, I realized how many of the glossary terms my students already knew. They just weren't making the connection between those words they were using and literacy terms. Having the terms on a wall that we continually add to keeps the words in front of us and reminds us of their place as literacy terms.

    To start, we placed a list of terms that students already knew on the wall. As a class, we went through the glossary and highlighted these terms. As we learn new terms, they are added to the wall. Currently in my teaching, I notice that I am referring to the terms more frequently and I also notice that my students are using the terms in our class discussions. For example, we now say protagonist and antagonist when referring to main characters. My students are also responsible for using the terms in their partner talk and written responses when appropriate.

    Now that I started using word walls for the purpose of keeping the literacy terms front and center, I approached several of my colleagues and inquired into their use of this tool. Two of them were gracious enough to share the word walls that live in their classrooms.

    Cara's Vocabulary Word Wall

     
     

    Jaslyn's Vocabulary Word Wall

     

     

    Word Walls Currently Living in Room 504

    Most word walls in my building are used for the school’s vocabulary initiative and I have brought those inside our classroom as well. Besides a vocabulary word wall, we also list dialogue tags. Every available space in our room is used to display word walls, so for the dialogue tags, we resorted to using the classroom window. 

     

    Vocabulary Word Wall

     

    Dialogue Tag Window Wall

     

    It is interesting to see that while word walls are so prevalent in the lower elementary grades, they seem to lose their steam by the time students get to middle and high school. Who knows? Maybe they will come back into fashion again. They have in my class!

    It is very easy for me to take an idea and go overboard. For right now, I think my classroom has word walls covered. The vocabulary and literacy terms will live in the room all year. The dialogue tags fall under the category "to keep as needed."

    I created the words for my word wall using Scholastic’s Word Workshop tool and laminated them so that I could use them next year. But you could easily place them on index cards and assign a student to write and place the words on the wall.

    Do you have any word display ideas that work well in your classroom? Please share! I love hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier.

     

    Pearls of Wisdom As we head into the colder months, remember to take care of yourself.

    Last year, at the end of the school year, I asked my students to reflect on what worked well and what could use some tweaking. I requested that they be honest because their comments would help to make my teaching better for my new students in September. There were many comments on how to improve the classroom economy system, floor plan, and library systems. And to be honest, they gave me some food for thought. But one topic especially resonated with me: the reader’s notebook.

    I had included a glossary section of the notebook filled with literacy terms. In giving me their full critique of things that didn't work for them, my students let me know that they didn't appreciate the glossary. Their comments revolved around the idea that it just took up space because we rarely used it as a resource.

    I am still on a journey to create the ultimate notebook that works for my students and me. After hearing their comments, I knew that I had to make some changes. I also knew that I wanted to create a way to have the glossary be a part of everyday school life for my class. And so it happened: the birth of the Literacy Terms Word Wall.

     

     

     

    From Glossary to Word Wall

    I realized that even though I did not utilize the glossary last year, we were still using the terms. I took a look at the curriculum that we used and noticed how many terms were embedded throughout the units of study. Not only that, I realized how many of the glossary terms my students already knew. They just weren't making the connection between those words they were using and literacy terms. Having the terms on a wall that we continually add to keeps the words in front of us and reminds us of their place as literacy terms.

    To start, we placed a list of terms that students already knew on the wall. As a class, we went through the glossary and highlighted these terms. As we learn new terms, they are added to the wall. Currently in my teaching, I notice that I am referring to the terms more frequently and I also notice that my students are using the terms in our class discussions. For example, we now say protagonist and antagonist when referring to main characters. My students are also responsible for using the terms in their partner talk and written responses when appropriate.

    Now that I started using word walls for the purpose of keeping the literacy terms front and center, I approached several of my colleagues and inquired into their use of this tool. Two of them were gracious enough to share the word walls that live in their classrooms.

    Cara's Vocabulary Word Wall

     
     

    Jaslyn's Vocabulary Word Wall

     

     

    Word Walls Currently Living in Room 504

    Most word walls in my building are used for the school’s vocabulary initiative and I have brought those inside our classroom as well. Besides a vocabulary word wall, we also list dialogue tags. Every available space in our room is used to display word walls, so for the dialogue tags, we resorted to using the classroom window. 

     

    Vocabulary Word Wall

     

    Dialogue Tag Window Wall

     

    It is interesting to see that while word walls are so prevalent in the lower elementary grades, they seem to lose their steam by the time students get to middle and high school. Who knows? Maybe they will come back into fashion again. They have in my class!

    It is very easy for me to take an idea and go overboard. For right now, I think my classroom has word walls covered. The vocabulary and literacy terms will live in the room all year. The dialogue tags fall under the category "to keep as needed."

    I created the words for my word wall using Scholastic’s Word Workshop tool and laminated them so that I could use them next year. But you could easily place them on index cards and assign a student to write and place the words on the wall.

    Do you have any word display ideas that work well in your classroom? Please share! I love hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier.

     

    Pearls of Wisdom As we head into the colder months, remember to take care of yourself.

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