There's an amazing tool that enables your Yrs 3-7 students learn how to spell the words they most frequently use in their writing and understand how words work.
It's cheap, it's simple, and it enables personalised investigation and learning.
What's the tool? A Personal Word Wall.
Here are 7 powerful ways to use Personal Word Walls:
1. Dealing with frequently misspelled words
When students continue to misspell common words frequently in their writing, get these words onto Personal Word Walls. Initially, some students will benefit from the word being recorded by you. The Personal Word Wall acts as a quick and easy reference for students as they are writing so they spell these words correctly, more often.
2. Learning how to spell words
To increase student independence, teach students how to learn a word they continually misspell using LSNCWC: Look, Say, Name, Cover, Write, Check. First teach the routine. Then teach them how to use LSNCWC independently.
Teach the following routine to help students learn each word:
- LOOK at the word carefully so that you can picture it when your eyes are closed
- SAY the word
- SPELL the word, almost chanting the letter names
- COVER the word and picture it in your mind
- WRITE the word
- CHECK the spelling, letter by letter
Many students do not realise what you mean when you say:
‘Look at the word’.
It means noticing what it looks like:
- Is there anything that surprises you about the spelling?
- Is there any part of it that you were spelling wrongly and need to notice how it is spelt?
- Is there a memory aid that will help you remember the spelling? Take a photo in your mind. Can you remember it when your eyes are closed?
This is done several times over until the students can write the word quickly and automatically.
It is helpful if they have individual erasable boards for this so they can write and erase the word many times.
Once they have worked with the words in this way, they can be responsible for adding new words to their Personal Word Wall. Taking charge of learning the words prior to adding them to their Personal Word Wall helps them to be more familiar with the words they should check on as they are writing.
Watch Candace, a Year 4,5,6 teacher talk about how she has started with Personal Word Walls here.
3. Writer's Tool
Have students use their Personal Word Wall during any writing sessions as a reference for their challenging words. You might ask students to add tally marks next to the words they have checked/corrected as evidence of independent use. Students will soon see which words they can write automatically without checking the Personal Word Wall. Why not ask students to look over their Personal Word Walls on a regular basis and acknowledge these learned words with a star or similar.
Teach students how to use their Personal Word Wall to help them proofread their own writing, by checking and correcting the spelling of any words they have used that are on their Personal Word Wall. When students have misspelled words for a long time, it is hard for them to know what the correct spelling of the word is. The Personal Word Wall gives them an easy reference. Expect that any Personal Word Wall words are checked/corrected before asking for proofreading/editing support. This can be introduced as a weekly proofreading activity.
5. Personal Vocabulary Building
Personal Word Walls can be organised alphabetically, but can also be developed to build students' vocabulary. This is a wonderful way to support the collection and use of words that deepen understanding and empower writers. For example:
- Maths - Measurement, Shape, Number
- Science - Living things, Space, Forces
- English - Compound Words, New and Interesting Words, Synonyms, Antonyms, Greek Roots.
These types of lists can be created by adding pages to an exisiting Personal Word Wall, or by creating a dedicated Personal Vocabulary Wall for older students.
6. Word Sums
Word Sums (Bowers, P. and Bowers, J.) teach students the logic of the English spelling system. Show your students how to find a base word on their Personal Word Wall. For example, a student may have the word 'said'.
Demonstrate how to write Word Sums using SAY:
say + s -> says (s - a - y - s = says)
say + ed -> said (s - a - replace the y with i, drop the e, d = said)
say + ing -> saying ( s - a - y - ing)
Creating Word Sums allows students to see the logical patterns of the English language and empowers them to apply this knowledge to any base word, thereby expanding their spelling knowledge.
For more information: Beyond Phonics: The Case for Teaching Children the Logic of the English Spelling System Jeffery S. Bowers & Peter N. Bowers WordWorks
7. Word Investigations
LIke Word Sums, Word Matrices empower learners to make sense of how words work by investigating morphology, etymology and phonology. Provide students with an opportunity to investigate some words on their Personal Word Wall.
Investigating words is about meaning, structure, relatives and pronunciation.
Peter Bowers defines 4 guiding questions for developing a Word Matrix:
- What does the word mean?
- How is it built?
- What are some related words?
- What do you notice about the pronunciation?
Old English: plegan
v. move rapidly, occupy oneself, exercise, frolic, make sport of
Old English: plega
n. quick motion, recreation, exercise, any brisk activity
n. a game
Personal Word Walls, or Vocabulary Walls, anchor the correct spelling of the words that each student needs the most whilst opening a cabinet of investigation possibilities. Powerful tools such as these play a critical role in supporting all students to grow in independence and learning.
Check out our Personal Word Wall Toolkit Years 3-7 and get started today.