Technology Driven Word Wall Woes

Oct 19, 2006 by

Don’t you just love alliteration? 🙂

I know that it’s educationally sound, and anecdotally it’s made sense in my classroom before, but I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out how best to implement a word wall using technology.

I had originally thought to create a traditional word wall. One that would literally take up space on a portion of my wall, and fill it with high frequency words that students often ask to spell (they don’t necessarily have to be technology related words either). The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that with 35 classrooms coming through my lab each week, it would take a lot of work on my part to put up the amount of words generated from the minds of 850 students. That’s where the technology comes in. I thought about allowing the students themselves to create the words, and then post them on the wall so that I’m not responsible for getting dozens of words each day printed up (or written up) and then posted on the wall.

Which leads me to another thought; do I have students print out a single word on a sheet of paper (highly wasteful) to put on the word wall, or should I have a dedicated machine somewhere in the room where students could enter words on an already open word document, and then print them off once the sheet is full? Having the students do it on their machine means less time is lost in transition from computer to computer, and less paper is conserved. However, having them use a single machine to all share words they need help spelling would encourage collaboration and conserve paper. Once the sheet is full I could format it so as to be large enough for the words to be seen from a distance, then print off the sheet, cut apart the words, and have the kids put them on the wall.

The more I thought about those two choices, the more I started questioning whether the word wall even needed to be a physical space on my classroom wall. Why couldn’t I simply create a web page with a list of high frequency words that the students themselves could either directly post to, or have me post words? It would be easier to maintain the list as it grew (something that would be difficult to do with limited space on the actual wall), but some students might be missing that essential physical piece; a sign in the room, a piece of paper they could touch. I really want to find a technically savvy way of creating this word wall, but I don’t want to just be using technology for technology’s sake. I know that the word wall makes sense, but I’m struggling to find the best way for it to make sense using the computers.

*grumble*

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12 Comments

  1. Julia Colby

    One idea that I have used in the past is to use recycled cd’s and use them as a border in the room. I use push pins through the center to attach to the wall/bulletin board. You could have the students write one or two words on the cd with a permanent marker. Another option would be to create cd labels and put the words on the label; however, this option is more time consuming and costs money for the labels and ink.

  2. Do you have a projector in the room? Why not do a web page and project it. Whenever you’re not using the projector for a lesson it could be your word wall. The bonus here is you could easily have different word walls for the different groups you work with.

  3. Ben

    I do have a projector in the room, but I’m usually using it constantly while teaching. Not to say I couldn’t put up a word wall on the screen, but I usually have instructions, details about the assignment, or resources that the students need throughout the class. I do like the idea of using a webpage though, perhaps I might set up a wiki-word wall.

    Thanks for the great idea about the CDs Julia. I have plenty of old ones laying around, and that would be fun to put them to good use since they’re just collecting dust. I think I’ll use them for my high frequency technology words for starters.

  4. What you need is a Word Wall Wiki…then students can add words as needed. The projection of the Word Wall Wiki is another issue I guess…

  5. nicole

    each student could create their own student dictionary. it could reside in their personal folders, and you could show them how to link to a definition online. each one would be personalized for each student.

  6. Tom

    It be nice to see something that could change based on the interest in specific words- kind of like a tag cloud (or exactly like it) except interest/clicks would change the size/color of the words. Maybe create a blog (there’s a tag cloud plug in somewhere) and have the kids create blank posts and then just tag them with the word they want. That’d work but it’s not very pretty.

    You could probably get a cheap TV or something to display it with. My local university gives away stuff like that it has surplused. Or you could go this route http://lumenlab.com/diyprojector.php?ref=

    I’m dying to do it- just waiting for the time.

  7. Ben

    Tom, that’s an awesome site. I put it up on the forum (gave you credit) for all of those science or industrial arts teachers looking for a good class project.

    I agree the tag cloud idea on a blog would be pretty nice as far as adaptability goes. I could do one for each grade level even. However, it would be nice to create posts with content instead of having them be blank.

    nicole: I really like that idea of having personal dictionaries, and since the students all have their own accounts they could do that. I’d just have to convince the other teachers that there’s some value in it over just picking up a paper dictionary.

    Kevin: I think there’s definitely some value in the word wall wiki, as it would be easy to add words to 26 different pages. If there was a plugin for media wiki to allow automatic alphabetizing, or a similar function in pbwiki that would help.

    I think I’ve got a LOT of great ideas here, and I’ll have to start sorting them all out. Thanks for all of the input thus far everyone!

  8. Ursula Accumanno

    I loved all of your ideas! I learned about some new items, “Tag Clouds” and I look forward to investigating further.
    I like the wiki idea… not only would it be a spelling word wall, but could contain additional information, such as definition.

  9. Ben

    I was thinking about definitions too, create a student dictionary so to speak, but I didn’t want to start reinventing the wheel just yet. I think that idea ha merit, but for now I’ll start with the word wall and then see where it takes me.

  10. Sheila Schatzke

    So what did you ever do with the word wall? How did it work out. I am going to create a word wall for my computer lab and I think I am going to use the cd’s with the word on it. It will really liven up my space themed computer lab.

    Sheila

  11. Thanks for the great info Sam! It’s nice to put up something that the kids can interact with both visually and aurally. Great find!

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