Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Word Wall

Last year, I implemented a word wall for the first time. After 17 years of teaching, I finally created one, and I do not know why I did not do this sooner! It is an incredibly easy concept from which you can get LOTS of mileage.

A word wall is a very basic tool - the idea is simply to post vocabulary words on the wall which will remain there for as long as you want. There are many different types of word walls in the world language classroom:
  1. ones which have all of the semester words up there already and are referred to when new words are introduced
  2. ones which have words for a particular unit and are then taken down after the unit has been completed
  3. ones to which new words are constantly added and serve as a running, cumulative list for students
I use example #3. Once I introduce a new target word, then I add it to the wall (I add about 6-7 new words a week). 

Here is my Latin 1 word wall from last year just after a few months of instruction - note that I was limiting vocabulary.



Observations
  1. A word wall, however, does not work unless it is reviewed constantly. Reviewing the words on the word wall serves as a great warmup activity. I point my laser pointer at the word wall and can ask a variety of questions, e.g., quid tristis significat Anglice? quid vocabulum significat Latine gives to him?
  2. As a result of the word wall, students know exactly which specific words I want them to acquire. Just because I use a particular word in a story does not mean that I want them to acquire it at that particular moment (as it may be a word which I am previewing for later acquisition or it may just be an "icing" word). If students see the word on the wall later, then they know that it is a target word.
  3. The wall serves as a reference for students when using the language, especially in a timed write. If students cannot think of something to add to their story, they can glance at the wall and use a word for inspiration.

8 comments:

  1. Keith, do you have more than one word wall or only do it for your Latin 1 classes?

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    1. This year, I am teaching only Latin 1 and 2, so each level has its own wall.

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  2. Word Wall is in your list of pre-reading activities. How would you suggest using it for that purpose?

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    1. If I know that the reading has words which students have not seen for awhile, then I will do a quick review of vocabulary words from the word wall. I do not use the word wall to preteach new vocabulary words.

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  3. hi Keith- do you teach multiple levels of students? I teach 4 levels this year (hopefully 5 next year), and I'm hoping that at least 3 of them will be in the same room that I will also be sharing with other teachers. Do you have any advice on how to have word walls for all the classes under these circumstances? Gratias!

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    1. 1) Having limited space for a word wall can sometimes be very beneficial. Whenever I run out of space for a word wall, I tell students that it is time to "vote words off of the island," i.e. words which they no longer need anymore on the wall, because they know them. Many times I have found that students do not need a complete word wall but only a wall of words which give them trouble or words which they have not fully acquired yet.

      2) For when having numerous preps, I have heard of folks who hang their words on string on the wall. One side of the word has Latin 1 words, while the other side has Latin 2 words. The teacher simply flips the words for the class which he/she is teaching at the moment.

      Hope this helps some!

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  4. Hi, Keith. Is your word wall Latin-only, or does it have the English translations as well? From the examples you give of warm-up questions you ask with it, I'm thinking it's just Latin. My understanding is that, when target structures are introduced on the board, it is with their English equivalent. When does a structure make its way from being translated to not?

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    Replies
    1. I've seen word walls which also include the English meaning. My word wall is not used to introduce new words, but rather it is a list of words which students should now know/have acquired after having interacted with the meaning in various ways. Once meaning has been established for these target words, then they go on the word wall.

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