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Interactive Word Wall

Management in the Active Classroom

Rich Richardson's eighth-grade students at the Expeditionary Learning Middle School in Syracuse, New York, use an interactive word wall to demonstrate their conceptual understanding of words in context. A word wall in the classroom is a powerful instructional tool to strengthen content vocabulary or concepts. A word wall can be an organized collection of words (and sometimes phrases) displayed on a wall or other space in the classroom. In this example, however, the "wall" moves to the floor to allow students to easily connect to one other's ideas and show their collective understanding. It allows both the students and the teacher to see how their knowledge has grown or perhaps where gaps may still exist.

In this video, students and teachers are engaged with a protocol/engagement strategy from EL Education's grades 3-8 ELA curriculum.


- [Teacher] So today we used the interactive word wall as a concept map. When students enter the room, the vocabulary words and phrases are already spread out on the floor. First thing I want you to do is identify some vocab words and phrases that you know you can make connections with other words. When a student comes to the middle of the interactive word wall, they are connecting their vocab word or phrase to a previous vocabulary word or phrase, using the arrows. And when they place their words, they need to explain the connection that they see or understand.

- I put collaboration next to strategy because they had to collaborate to complete some of their strategies in war.

- So casualties is a cost of war.

- I put the biomes after consequences because the solders weren’t the only consequences. For instance in the Persian Gulf War the oil fields in Kuwait were burned.

- The purpose of an interactive word wall is to have students grapple with vocabulary that they’re working on in class in an engaging and hands-on way. They’re really illustrating the connection with those arrows. Some connections the students are able to make regularly would be cause and effect relationships. Veterans made sacrifices therefore we honor them when they come home. It helps student literally see the connections between words. Students are able to build upon each other’s ideas. They are using vocabulary words in context, and it’s a great way to scaffold through the writing process and prepare students to write using these vocabulary words. This allows them to synthesize all these concepts and all these vocab terms in ways that helps them put it all together.

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EL Education

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