In previous posts this week, we have discussed the importance of collaborating with other disciplines to inspire creativity and innovation. In today’s post, we will share the result of one such collaborative effort.
In Kim’s meeting with a small group of math specialists, the conversation turned toward word walls. While the idea of collecting content specific vocabulary on a designated wall within the classroom is not new, these teachers wondered if simply writing words on a sentence strip and taping it to the wall was really helping their students. Kim’s first question to these teachers was, “How are you using your word wall?” Most of the teachers in the group sheepishly admitted that they really weren’t as another chimed in and said that she had organized her words into numbered rows and from time to time when students struggled with a math vocabulary word, she would refer them to a line on the word wall and ask students to pick which of the three words in that line was relevant to the work they were doing.
As soon as this teacher shared her idea of organizing words into a chart, the math teachers began to imagine how they might reorganize their charts and began to think about how they could give students coordinates and ask them to locate the math word at row one, column 3. As they talked, Kim’s literacy gears fired and together, Kim and the math specialists came up with the following ways to have students interact with a math word wall organized into lines and columns:
1. Give students a problem like 200 + 500. Ask them to give you the coordinates of the word that describes the number that represents the answer to the problem.
2. As students come into the classroom, give them coordinates such as row 2, column 4 and ask them to locate the word. Once they find the word, have students interact with the word in some way; for example, they could define the word or come up with a problem that applies this word in a relevant way.
3. Turn out the lights and shine a flashlight on a word on the wall. First ask students to give the coordinates of the word and then give them a problem and ask how the word represents something they see in the problem.
We suspect that these ideas are just the beginning of possibilities for the math word wall and invite you to collaborate with us and help these math teachers as well as the others reading this blog. What other potential do you see in a math word wall organized like this? What other suggestions do you have for content area word walls?
Note: The word wall cards in the image in this post are from http://www.psteacherresources.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1_29.