A word wall is a collection of words displayed in the classroom as a tool to support student’s reading, writing, and vocabulary success. There are many different kinds of word walls including high frequency, spelling, vocabulary, science, and math. These walls are constructed in view of students and developed over time. In my classroom, I’m constantly updating the wall to meet the needs of my students’ performance levels and content standards.
The Math Word Wall
The purpose of a math wall is to support mathematical thinking and ensure students are developing skills and concepts needed for independent explorations. During the launch of my math workshop, I incorporate an essential question with an embedded vocabulary word. These words are highlighted, illustrated, and featured at the students’ eye level.
When introducing the word, I work to have the kids make connections with its meaning. Connections can be made through models, illustrations, and objects. With file folders on hand, the kids assist with adding the newly introduced vocabulary word to the folder. The word isn’t complete without a visual representation, to activate schema in prior lessons. Why use a file folder? Each folder develops a topic with several words and becomes a tangible object hung by clips for students to use throughout each component of the workshop.
Interactive walls involve communication and collaboration of people and things. One of the challenges a teacher can face is how to keep the wall relevant. I like to incorporate time for students to practice words introduced through various math activities. Listed below are a few ways to provide students with additional interactions with math content.
Each student is provided with three, 3×5 inch, post it notes. The kids create a three way fold and cut along the lines. Once all post it notes are cut the kids arrange them into 3 rows of 3. Using words introduced, the kids record their desired vocabulary word on each sheet. After I call out the meaning of the word, the kids cover the word with a button.
What’s My Name?
Students are given a name pouch with a specific math vocabulary word. This pouch is hung from a lanyard around the students’ neck. Throughout the day, kids will refer to each other by the vocabulary word rather than their given name.
As an additional work station, I provide students with an opportunity to interact with the words from a word wall through a word hunt. The kids work to search the room, high and low, for the posted words. Once they’ve found all words, they work to place them in alphabetical order.
Having a portable word wall has opened many new doors for independent practice. Upon completion of a unit, students are able to pull file folders from a filing bin and reference old words. However you decide to incorporate words into your classroom, I encourage you to make the words as interactive as possible.
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