Word Walls

Q Do you use word walls in the Invisibles approach?

A. Working with emergent language in the way described in this book eliminates the need for the old pre-determined word walls. The message of those old style word walls was, “You don’t know these words, but if I put them in a list for everyone to see, you will learn them.” That message is not true. It is when we work with language that emerges from the students’ interests and imaginations that words are retained, and not because they are posted on a wall. When we listen to a symphony, we don’t post a list of all the musical notes which make it up on the wall. Just as musical notes can only exist in context, so also is it in context that we use and retain words for true enjoyment of the symphony that language can be.

Q I have to admit that my walls were getting kind of cluttered with words.

A. That’s another big reason not to use word walls. Plus, in order to be accurate they would have to be updated every day, which is impractical, but there are even more reasons not to use them.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, each student has a different rate of retention and ability to process, so that each would have a different relationship with the words on the wall. So they wouldn’t just clutter the wall – they would clutter the kids’ minds. Clutter is a big enemy in storytelling. Too many posters is a problem as well.

Q. What posters do you have up in your classroom?

A. The Classroom Rules, the Director’s Cues, the Art Galleries, and the number/color chart, Sabrina’s greetings list. I greatly value simplicity on the walls so that I now have more room for the students’ artwork – their characters and story boards.

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3 thoughts on “Word Walls”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I printed out a darling word wall last yr, each spanish word in a speech bubble in black, underlined and with the English right below it in red. I posted at first the words we were using most (but since I teach grades 1-4 it was a lot) and soon after the words became background noise, like old mail on my entry bench. Occasionally I’d walk over and point to a new word- or put a star next to it! And sometimes I saw the kids scanning for it. Since my Ss don’t do free writes, they didn’t need them for that..long story short, I started this year without the word wall, and I don’t think the Ss are any worse for the wear. So no word wall for me this time.
    I do see lots of word lists in Tina’s classroom and they look very practical and helpful, especially since she teaches 2 languages. They are lists of adjectives for OWI, transition words(?), and other key words to keep the L2 flow, so they’re different in content and purpose from a word wall, (right Tina?)

  2. This year I did sort of an emergent word wall. I would pick a few of the words/phrases that came up in our stories that kids understood in general. I didn’t expect them to know them but if they needed something on a free write a ton of my kids would glance up at it and use them in their writing when they got stuck. But it wasn’t necessary the only really nice thing about it was for me during WCTG I knew I would stay in blinds because those were only the “big” words from what we had some in class. Also it was good for playing Quizlet live I just kept a growing list of words and they would play rounds from that. Made my life easier.

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