This past school year, I attempted to maintain a word wall for my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 classes. I don’t think I ever had a teacher use a word wall when I was in school. And, none of the teachers I did my student teaching with had word walls. I didn’t learn about them in college, either. So, I guess I learned about word walls via blogs and pinterest.
I didn’t really use my word walls to their full potential during this first year of teaching. I think I updated them about three times over the course of the school year. I never created words for the last few units of each subject.
Students didn’t use them as much as I would have hoped, but I didn’t teach them how to use it. I did have a few students who would use it when they couldn’t think of a word. And, as soon as they started using it, other students would start using it. So, they are useful. I just need to find a way to better incorporate it into my classroom routines.
One day in Algebra 1, I required my students to choose a word from the word wall and write a letter to the celebrity of their choice. In their letter, they had to explain what the vocab word meant. Those were enlightening to read. And, they made me realize how out of touch I am with pop culture.
I put up the words randomly, and I think that was a mistake. I’m going to replace the fun fonts with a font that can be easily read from across the classroom. Next year, I think I want to color-code the words by unit. And, I want to put the units up in a linear fashion. I know it won’t be as “cute,” but I think it will be more functional and lead to a higher level of usage by my students.
If they are looking for a word that they have learned recently, they will look at the most recently added words. If they’ve forgotten a word from the beginning of the school year, they can quickly look at the first sets of words.
Next year, I will prompt my students to use the word wall more often. When I want my students to express themselves using more specific and appropriate terms, I can direct them to the word wall. The word wall in my classroom will only be as useful as I make it. Next year, it will add more than just color to my walls. It will add to the learning environment.