Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Word Walls 101: Supporting ELLs

I love my job, and I really love helping the teachers I coach improve the way they scaffold instruction for English language learners. In the past, I've worked with a few of my schools on improving their word walls.

Word walls can be an amazing tool for supporting ELL language growth- if used correctly! They're also one of the most basic changes you can make to support ELLs. Often, when I visit classes, I find word walls, but they fall short in a few basic ways.

For a word wall to be effective, it needs to have a few basic qualities. It should be:

  • Highly visible
    • In an area of the classroom where students frequently look
    • Not hidden behind other items (easels, anchor charts, etc)
    • Reachable to students so they can interact with it
  • Highly visual
    • Visuals or realia included for each (or most) words
    • Organized in a way that is both visual and visually appealing
  • Relevant
    • Contains the current words students need to know
    • Related to the current unit/topic/focus
  • Interactive (choose one or more):
    • Students generate or organize key terms
    • Organized as a graphic organizer
    • Includes QR codes for additional info
    • Includes REAL objects students can view, touch or interact with
    • Words are removable or have flaps to lift for additional information 
Can you provide an example?
While working with one school in particular, I decided it might be a good idea to create a live, working model that teachers could see and interact with. Something concrete to hopefully inspire them!

Therefore, I created this word wall based on our county curriculum for 3rd grade mathematics- Area and Perimeter. There are several interactive elements included:
  • QR codes leading to additional information
  • The ability for students to organize it in a way that makes sense to them
  • Hands-on option to measure a piece of paper and calculate area and perimeter (with an option to self-check their answer!)
Many schools are requiring word walls now, so if you're going to take the time to put one up anyway, you might as well get some academic bang for your buck as well. Be sure to grab the free Word Walls for ELLs: Planning Sheet and Checklist from my TpT store. These documents can help you ensure you're following the tips discussed above. 

I hope these tips help you to construct effective word walls for your own students. Tune in next week when I talk about activities you can do with your word wall. 

Also, check out the post about Digital Word Walls on my technology blog!

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