Thursday, February 20, 2014

Maximize Your Letter and Word Wall's Potential: Is it a tool or a decoration?

Do you have a letter or word wall?  Did you even know there was a difference?

In preschool, a letter wall is used instead of a traditional word wall. The focus is on the initial letter and letter identification.

According to the State Center for Early Childhood Development from the University of Texas, a letter wall is a visual display of the alphabet with a key word picture for each letter. It is used as an interactive tool to expose young children to a variety of concepts throughout the school year. Every word on the letter wall is accompanied by a picture representation.

A letter wall is different from a word wall. Word walls have been traditionally used in elementary grades to help students with reading, writing, and spelling. They may include sight words or high frequency words with no picture.

Letter and Word Walls, when used appropriately, can become a vital tool for building vocabulary, early reading and writing skills. A word wall will consist of the same things as a letter wall except you may not have a picture to represent each word. For example, it is very difficult to illustrate the words: the, and, etc.

Essential components of a letter wall:
1. It needs to be practical
2. Hands-on and interactive
3. Prominently located where students can see it and manipulate it
4. Simple font and a picture for every word
5. Built over time with shared student-teacher responsibility
6. Uncluttered

A letter wall that students cannot see or manipulate becomes another classroom decoration.  

Laminating words and using Velcro is a very easy way to help make your letter wall interactive. In a bilingual class, best practice is to have two separate letter or word walls, one for each language.

When I taught a bilingual preschool class, I had all the Spanish words on a red background and printed the initial letter in red.  The English letter wall had a blue background with the initial letter of each word printed in blue.   The color visual helped my students identify what language a particular word was written in, and helped them identify what letter wall to refer to on different language days.
Spanish Letter Wall

English Letter Wall

Letter/Word Wall Potential

For early learners, letter walls can facilitate their understanding and awareness of distinctive letter forms, letter names, the concept of words, basic letter-sound correspondence, initial letter sounds, and the idea that words can be written down.

Letter/word walls promote vocabulary growth which lead to improvement in literacy skills, including reading comprehension and writing.

Space for letter/word walls can sometimes be a challenge due to the many things displayed around the room in addition to essential furniture and stationary items such as white boards etc. Watch this video to see how this teacher found a very practical solution to that problem. Her idea is simply genius!

Keeping It Going

Most preK-5th grade teachers have a letter or word wall in their classroom. What I notice is that sometimes as teachers, we get in a rut and run out of ideas of ways we can have students interact with the letter/word wall in a fun and meaningful way.

Last year, a friend and I sat and brainstormed different ideas for using the letter wall.  We created a resource for teachers to keep handy to help them avoid the letter wall rut and monotony. This resource can be printed and kept on a ring readily accessible.

Download your copy of Letter Wall Games, Transitions and More Printable Cards right here and revitalize your letter/word wall today.  I hope you will find it useful and helps you maximize your letter wall's potential.


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