Individual Word Walls for Primary Students

When I started teaching, word walls were the "go to" standard of a primary and junior classroom.

More recently, I have noticed that they are becoming a thing of the past.

More and more teachers are realizing that students need individualized content and what one child needs, others do not. As a result, I have seen personal dictionaries become the standard in primary and junior grades, especially in discussion groups with teachers in large Facebook groups..

In kindergarten, my colleagues have very different views about this.

That is okay.

Classes should not all be the same. Nor should they ever be.

How we meet our students' needs will vary based on their individual needs!

Some teachers love co-creating word walls with their students and their students become very adept at using them.

I've had word walls that mainly the older students will reference but have come to realize, for me, that it is a big piece of real estate in my classroom that not all students can reference. As a result, this past year I started to use personal word walls. We would use it during guided reading and during our small group writing activities.

The images above give examples of beginning words that I would automatically include for new readers or beginning readers. I purposefully include the alphabet with lower case letters because that is what we write with most of the time and many children often have a hard time transitioning from upper to lower case letters.

How do I use them?

Each word wall is glued onto card stock for durability for two years. On the back, I include personalized words for each child like family members or pet names.

New Words:
I start with around 10 basic words all students should be able to read at first. Then, I write all new words on each students word walls as they are introduced during guided reading. Also, if I notice that they can read or write a word that is not included on the chart I will add it.

Guided Reading:
At the beginning of guided reading, students read all the words on their word wall as a refresher. This helps them become very acquainted with where words are and helps to boost their instant recall.

Small Group Writing:
When students are writing they are encouraged to get their word wall. I always teach writing in small focused groups so that I can focus on each students learning as we are learning.

I often will prompt students with a question and prompts similar to the following:

"What do you want to write about today using the words you know on your word wall?
You can write about anything you want!
You could write, 'I see mom.' or 'I like the beach.' or 'I like to play soccer.' or 'I love my dad.'
What do you want to write about today?"

FYI: I point to the words on their word wall as I give suggestions to model using the word wall.

I may give a variety of suggestions like the ones listed above and children do find this helpful as a first prompt but ultimately I find that children always have their own ideas. It is very rare that I find they copy an example that I have prompted them with.

Check this out:
If you're interested in implementing something similar you can click the image below to check out the templates that I use. There are more options included in this than I describe in this blog post.


Editable Back to School Mailbag Labels

I cannot believe that it is already time to prep for the new year again!

It's to set up our classrooms and get everything ready for the new students and parents who are new to the school routine and how we each organize our own classroom.

Let's be real. Communication with parents needs to happen ALL. THE. TIME. in Kindergarten and primary grades!

As a result, one of the very first things I tackle each year is my communication mailbags. Students send them home nightly with any mail that needs to go home and return them the next day. I'll be honest, I like a uniform look so I make the bags up myself and it allows parents to read our expectations instantly, as a reminder, if required.

I always ensure that students names are on the bag so that they are easy to identify if they get lost.

Parents appreciate that they know I've got everything ready for them and I love the organized look!

Teacher Tip: 
Ensure you have these ready for your first parent meeting so you can go over expectations in person. Parents truly appreciate this personalized communication.

Happy back to school!


Why It's Not Okay to Let Kids Say "It's Okay!"

Teachers of young children often spend a lot of time in September teaching simple social skills so that a classroom can run smoothly throughout the rest of the school year.

Social skills are the hardest skills of all for this age group as they are so egocentric.

It is the basis for friendship, the ability to play with others and the ability to be able to control and express feelings and emotions.

When solving problems independently, I have often found that kids do usually learn to say sorry quickly. Unfortunately, often the "go to" response after this is, "It's okay!" and then the children walk away from each other.

This bothers me deeply as children know it isn't okay that someone hurt them or their feelings. When a child hears this, after doing something wrong, I have found they often easily dismiss their error and the problem reoccurs frequently. Remember, the last thing they have heard is that "it's okay" to do that, even though they admitted to their actions and said they were sorry.

We explicitly teach our children to say, "I forgive you. Please don't do that again!"

Developing this language with young children validates that a wrongdoing occurred and that we can forgive others.

It does not dismiss the issue or make it bigger than it needs to be.

If we ever hear someone respond to a social problem with, "it's okay," I instantly stop their conversation with, "Well, actually no. It is not okay that they did that. But, we can forgive them for doing it and ask them not to do it again!"

We have found that children are more willing to own up to their mistakes when they know they will be forgiven for their actions and, in the end, this leads to fewer behavior problems.

Providing this safe environment where students talk about mistakes and forgiveness is essential for developing ownership for behavior, long lasting friendships, and self-regulation skills!

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