Online word walls are a hit!
Make students practice their typing and you’ll get a couple of unenthusiastic groans. Require students to type stories and you might peak the interest of a few. Ask students to share lists of their favorite or best spelled words online, and you’ll have kids spending hours at home writing up lists of words that they can’t wait to share online with their friends.
Such is the case with my first ever Wiki Word Wall project, which I posted about awhile back. The idea being that rather than have the students create their own word walls in a word processor where only they would see it, they could create word walls online, using a wiki, and then collaborate, share, and help each other maintain and improve their pages. So I went to Wikispaces, signed up for a free space (they still have plenty of free spaces for education without advertisements left), and let each student create their own page. While most of the fourth graders have been unbelievably enthusiastic about it (can we go to the word wall Mr. Rimes? PLEASE!!!!), yesterday two girls came into the computer lab with a sheet of lined paper, completely filled on both sides, with every type of horse breed they could come up with! Now, for someone that thought the only difference between horses is that some are small and some are large, I had my socks knocked off. They were so excited to simply share a list of words that they were personally connected with (both of them ride) that they were willing to put in considerable time at home for a class that they only have 45 minutes each week.
I’m really excited to see what the classroom teachers will do with this resource. My plan is to give the fourth graders a couple more weeks to work on their lists, with the possibility of a scavenger hunt using other students’ pages, but other than the 45 minutes I have with them, I really am at a lose for extending this activity. I’ll definitely be giving the fourth grade teachers some ideas (weekly spelling words, building vocabulary lists for science, etc.), but I’m really anxious to see what the more tech-savvy of the staff here will do with it. My hope is that something wonderfully engaging and educational develops from the ideas of one of the classroom teachers and the other teachers won’t be able to pass up such an exciting use of technology. For now, I’m pretty satisfied by the seriously large effort that students are putting into their word walls, and can’t wait to get the fifth graders started on an idea I have about a kid-centered wiki encyclopedia.