All of the research behind the Science of Reading confirms it’s time to start using Sound Walls in the classroom. Today I’m sharing reasons why you should dive in and make the switch. In addition, I’m sharing an exclusive and helpful freebie!
Of course, when I first started hearing about Sound Walls in the classroom, I honestly wondered if it was just another swing of the pendulum. Is this a fad or something I’m going to invest time and money in only to hear that we’ve moved on to the next thing?
Know Better, Do Better
First, I read Know Better, Do Better by David and Meredith Liben and honestly, my mind was blown. Why in the world have we been teaching reading in such a confusing way? I highly recommend this book if you, like me, are wondering where to begin.
Eventually, I started to realize that some of our methods were teacher focused instead of student focused. They are based on practices that make sense to us but don’t make sense to a beginning reader. I came up with 5 reasons why it was time to get rid of my Word Wall and replace it with a student-friendly Sound Wall.
Why YOU Should Make the Switch
1. They Make Sense
That’s right! When you really dig into bringing Sound Walls in the classroom, it just makes sense for our students. Unfortunately, Word Walls can be downright confusing. Just watch a child’s face as they try to find a word with a beginning sound that doesn’t match the most common sound made by that letter. For example, students would likely listen to the /n/ sound at the beginning of the word “know” and attempt to find it under the “N” section of a Word Wall. With a Sound Wall, students would hear the /n/ sound, locate the /n/ phoneme, and understand that “kn” is one way to read and spell the /n/ sound. To clarify, Sound Walls in the classroom are based on a student’s understanding while Word Walls are created based on a teacher’s prior understanding of the variety of spellings we have for each sound.
2. The Science of Reading is Based on Extensive Research
Recently, you’ve likely heard much about the Science of Reading. The Science of Reading is not a book or a new curriculum. It is an extensive body of research completed throughout the last forty years. It clarifies myths that memorizing hundreds of words or guessing what a word is are effective ways to teach reading.
In my own life, I am seeing my daughters try to guess words over and over rather than using phonics skills necessary to decode a difficult or unknown word. This leads to frustration for each of us and a continual reminder that they have the skills necessary to figure out the word. There is no need for their eyes to leave the word and dart around the pictures for clues. Unlike speaking, reading does not happen naturally. Instead, it needs to be explicitly taught in a systematic way in order for our students to become proficient and fluent readers.
3. Include Mouth Formation Visuals
Effective Sound Walls in the classroom include mouth formation visuals for students to reference. This year, it was a real eye opener when I kept seeing a group of my ELs put their tongues OVER their teeth to pronounce the /l/ sound. However, now that I use Sound Walls in the classroom, I am able to show them the mouth formation visual. I also give them a mirror so they can check to see if they are forming the sound correctly.
4. Improve Spelling and Decoding Skills
Now, you will be amazed at the difference in your children’s ability to decode and spell difficult words. For so many years, we have taught that certain words HAD to be memorized and that they were just “rule breakers”. This is simply untrue. Many of the words that we teach students to memorize actually don’t have to be as long as we instill phonemic awareness within our students. When Sound Walls are used in the classroom, students learn new spelling patterns helping them both spell and decode unfamiliar words.
5. Make it Interactive!
Finally, let’s face it – some of you have a word wall that is more like wallpaper. It looks pretty but it’s not REALLY being utilized by students. Perhaps you are a unicorn and consistently use your word wall with students. Is it really interactive? To clarify, Sound Walls in the classroom work best when you build them WITH your students. Your students should be getting up and removing the sound spelling cards. Mine take those new sound spelling cards to their tables to use as references. In addition, children pull the mouth articulation cards out and compare their own mouths to the visuals using the provided mirrors. I know that Sound Walls in the classroom may look overwhelming at first. In reality, they are a tool created by and FOR the students!
Ready to Try?
Well, did I convince you yet? Maybe you are willing to give Sound Walls a try. I have a gift just for you! I want you to feel confident and avoid the overwhelm that comes with making the big switch. To help, I have a ring of helpful tips and tricks that I created just for you. I’ve included everything you may have questions about in the freebie.
Looking for more classroom inspiration? Try this post about our Teddy Bear Picnic and Sleepover or see how we use technology to practice retell strategies using our favorite fairy tales and nursery rhymes!
Be sure to leave a comment and let me know if you plan to use Sound Walls in the classroom!
Happy Teaching and Mommy-ing this week friends!