One easy way to create a literate environment in the classroom that promotes vocabulary development is to use word walls. Although the layout and format of word walls may vary from classroom to classroom, the idea behind them is the same- it is a collection of words that displayed somewhere in the room big enough for students to see that students can utilize during reading and writing.
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In the lower grades, word walls might contain a lot of sight words or words that contain the same spelling pattern. As the students get a little bit older, word walls are a great way to promote vocabulary development. Take the vocab words from the current literacy unit that is being worked on and put them up on the word wall.
Additionally, anytime a word pops up throughout the daily instruction and a student asks what it means, add it to the word wall. Refer to these words frequently and use them during instruction as well as during more casual conversation times. Repeated exposure to new vocabulary words- both orally and visually- will increase the students’ chances of remembering what it means and knowing how to use it.Word walls are often displayed directly on a wall or bulletin board.
When using word walls for vocabulary development, I prefer to hang the words from the ceiling or light fixtures. Attach a hanger or a clip of some sort to the light fixture, perhaps with a bit of yarn dangling down to get you started.
From there, write one vocab word on one side of a large index card and write a brief definition (or picture if that demonstrates the meaning more clearly) on the back. Write as large as possible, and use a black or other dark colored marker. Attach the card to the yarn. From there, you can hang several more underneath it, attaching each new card to the one above it with a paper clip poked through the card.
Because these strips of words are hanging from the ceiling, it is easy to make several of them throughout the room. Students can easily view the words as well as their meanings and can refer to these words as they read, write, and even speak.
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