Thursday, August 15, 2013

Creating Digital Word Walls

This summer I had the opportunity to hear educator Kelly Gallagher present.  He really got me thinking when he talked about our responsibility to "elevate word poverty."  We know that words have tremendous power, and are often a gateway to student success in many of our classes.  There are many strategies we can use, but I want to talk here about the strategy of word walls.    

Many teachers use word walls to build student vocabulary.  Robert Marzano in Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement describes a word wall as an "ongoing, organized display of key words that provides visual reference for students throughout a unit of study or a term."  Word walls are a powerful way to reinforce the repetition necessary to build student vocabulary, and they provide a visual for vocabulary development.

A strategy worth considering is challenging your students to create digital word walls.  Using a tool like Padlet provides an opportunity for the "wall" to go anywhere with the student.  That visual is now mobile!  

I've included a short example of how you might use Padlet to create a word wall.  I used some geometry terms in this particular case, but you could do this with vocabulary from any content area.  As students build word walls, challenge them to play with the words.  Here are some different ways students can construct meaning: 

  • Associate images
  • Create analogies
  • Write definitions in their own words and then compare with the formal definition
  • Generate examples and non-examples
  • Create word shapes
  • Break down the meaning of roots, prefixes, and suffixes
I've illustrated some of these methods in the example below.  Scroll the padlet to see several word examples. 

The power of the digital word wall is in the ability to personalize, collaborate, and reinforce or add to the wall anywhere and anytime!  Padlet walls can be shared spaces.  Would you want your entire class to collaborate on one word wall or would you want small groups to create word walls?  Perhaps a few students from your 3rd hour and 4th hour collaborate and construct meaning together in a virtual space.  Through the technology, their learning isn't restricted to your classroom.  Or would you want each student to create an individual word wall?  There are a variety of options!

Watch this video tutorial for a quick demo on creating a Padlet wall.

Marzano, Robert J. Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004. Print.

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