Active Word Walls for Developing Phonics Understandings in Grades 3-5 Active word walls can engage students in more involved word finds that help students make generalizations about their language and how it is spelled. Just as in the primary grades, the purpose is to learn to spell by analogy, not to memorize spellings. For example, one activity could explore the options for spelling /k/. To commence, a chart is labeled with k and students begin their word hunts for words containing /k/ spelled with the letter k. These word collections can be group activities or occur independently between assignments, such as with the sticky-note method described in the primary example.
Soon students point out that /k/ can be spelled with c--only to discover that these are ca, co, and cu words. Then the collection of words naturally extends to charts for ch (character), qu (quick), cc (occasion), kk (Hanukkah). Students also discover that ck can spell /k/ the middle and at the end of words. Then the question is posed: What determines whether a /k/-ending word is spelled ck, k, or ke? In time, with the collection of more words, the students have the answer and can write the generalization—When /k/ follows a short vowel, it is usually spelled ck, and is usually spelled k or ke when it does not. A long vowel signals the ke pattern. Next, students are off and running finding exceptions!
Active Word Walls to Motivate Middle School/Junior High Students to Make Discoveries about Foreign Spellings Middle school/junior high students have not outgrown active word walls. The concepts become more sophisticated, but in many cases the centerpiece is, as in the former examples for the preceding grades, spelling by analogy. This could include discovering the spelling patterns of words with foreign origins. A collection of words that reflects the Greek ph for /f/ pattern may be the subject of an active word wall (e.g., physical, cellophane, apostrophe). A chart is labeled Words from the Greek--ph for /f/,
and the word find begins.
The sticky-note method, as described in the primary example, works well for the collection of words, but sometimes students at this level can add words to the charts themselves. These students particularly enjoy playing in teams, but the word finds are immensely useful as sponge activities to productively "soak up” free time in between assignments. Teams can still be used because their independent contributions can be entered on the wall charts in their team color.
Students can be challenged to uncover other Greek spelling patterns with the letter p--pn (e.g., pneumonia), ps (e.g., pseudonym) and pt (e.g., ptomaine). Are there more examples of Greek spellings? Over time, students will uncover the ch spelling /k/, the rh spelling r, and xy spelling z. As you work with synonyms, another Greek spelling will come to the fore--the y spelling i--as in the word synonym, and the extensive word bank that reflects this pattern.
The Greek spellings can be expanded to French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Native American, German, and Russian influences with active word walls. Each word bank results in generalizations about our language and its spellings. Yes, Monique, whose father is a French chef, discovers why the /k/ ending of her name is not spelled the way her classmate's name with the same sound is spelled--Eric Monarch.
INCREASING STUDENT SPELLING ACHIEVEMENT Copyright 2003 Egger Publishing Inc. Reprinted with permission 1-888-937-7355