Learning to read is key to a child’s future success and when we discover reluctant readers or non-readers, we are usually quick to assess the methods that will provide success. Although a good early reading program consists of phonics, listening/thinking, letter formation, letter sounds, real reading, and sight words, this article will focus on the importance of phonics using word walls and or word cards.
Phonics is mainly concerned with sounds, learning letter formation, blending sounds and the ability to identify sounds in words. Learning the sounds of letters leads children to the next step – applying the sounds including the blends to hear the words. When main letter sounds are known, the child applies this knowedge to words. For instance, if the popular sounds are learned first (s, t, m, r, ,c, f) etc. the knowledge is then in place for a child to recognize, cat, fat, mat, sat, rat etc.)Word walls can be used from Kindergarten to the eighth grade.
A child needs a set of word cards – or word walls should be in place. Begin with the ‘Dolch’ words at the appropriate level. Also use the word family cards to extend word knowledge. Again, beginning with the easiest level first.
Activites for the use of Word Cards/Walls
Put the words in alpha order as each is said alout.
Print a rhyming word for 10 of the word cards or word wall words.
Use the cards in a flash game with a partner.
Put the cards in piles – those you can add an ‘s’ to and those you can’t.
Write a word wall story, see how many of the words you can use.
Use a timer to see how fast the words can be read.
Change 1 or 2 of the letters of to see if new words can be made.
Write in a journal and underline the word wall/card words.
How many different ways can you add or take away a letter to make new words, i.e., ten – tent – then.
Children must state 5 facts or ask 5 questions begining with their chosen word cards/wall words.
The goals for word wall or word card activities are: being able to read common and word family words accurately and quickly; being able to spell the word card/wall words and self assessing the spelling and reading of the words.
Parent connections are extremely valuable in the reading process. Give parents a list of high frequency (Dolch) words and the word families with a few strategies to support reading at home.
Point, Clap, Chant. The teacher states the word, one student points to the word on the word wall and then all students chant the letters of the word and clap for each letter.
Rhymes. The students take their notebooks out and when the teacher states the word, the student tries to write 1-3 rhyming words in their notebook. The teacher then lets the students say their rhyming words.
Alphabetical Order. Depending on the number of word wall words, students can alphabetize all of them or they can alphabetize the first 20 or last 20 words.
Sign Language This works best when the sign language pictures are also available. The children use sign language to spell the word the teacher says. A terrific inclusive activity!
Add an ending (s, ed, ing) The students take out their notebooks and add endings to each of the words where appropriate.
Vowel PlayThe students can write the words and underline all the vowels, or decide if the vowels are long, short or controlled by another letter (star – r controlled vowel and neither long nor short)
Peer test. Students take turns testing each other on the spelling of each of the words
Scavenger Hunt. Use old magazines or newspapers. Students try to locate as many of the word wall words as they can, they can cut them out and paste them into their books.
Change a letter. Students try to make new words by changing just one letter. This can be a fun, challenging activity that can also be played in teams.
Word wall stories Students use as many of the word wall words as they can to write a story. This too can be quite a challenge to ensure that the story makes sense yet still uses many of the words.
Guess the word wall word. Students work with partners and draw the word with their finger on their partner’s back. When the student guesses the word, they trade places. (Great for tactile learners)
Letters or syllables. The teacher states the word and the student then hold up the right number of fingers to show the number of letters or the number of syllables.
Missing word. This one can be really fun. The teacher gives a sentence that is missing a word wall word and the students have to guess what the word is. For instance, if the word wall word is ‘at’, the teacher could say, “Who was _____ the park yesterday?” The teacher could have students state the word orally by turn, or have them do the activity in their notebooks. The activity could then be taken up after the dictation.
Guess my word wall word. This activity can be done in a couple of ways. The teacher gets the students to number off from 1 to 10 in their notebooks and gives clues about the word. For instance: “The word I’m thinking about rhymes with _____ and has 1 syllable and 4 letters.” The student then writes down what they believe the word is. The other method is to do the activity orally and let a student point to the word on the word wall.
Word wall Bingo Students always love a good game of bingo. In this activity, the students write down a stated number of word wall words, 10, 15 or 20. The teacher then randomly states the names of some of the word wall words. As she says the words, the students underline the word or put a chip over the word. The first one to have their words read out by the teacher first is the winner.
Word wall snap. The class forms 2 lines. The teacher is in front of the 2 lines. The teacher points to a word wall (or uses the word wall cards), the first student to say the word remains in front of the line. The other student goes to the back of the line and the 2 students in front continue on.
Sounds like…. The teacher says a word that sounds like the word wall word, for instance in the case of ‘are’ the teacher would say “sounds like far” and the students write down what they think the word wall is. This one can also be played orally.