(Contributed by: Dr. Allen Lynn)
Word Walls and other glossed vocabulary strategies can be very effective with ELLs. Not only do they act as visible reminders, they also help students see patterns and relationships among words. Word Walls are organized collections of high frequency words or words that relate to a particular theme that is being studied in class. While Word Walls are most closely associated with lower elementary grades, there is no reason not to use them in upper grades. We recommend that Word Walls be living centers in the class where words come and go, depending on their role in the class at that current time.
One advantage of Word Walls is that they make the use of the ELLs’ L1 public, bringing their language out of the shadows. The ELL’s language becomes visible for all to see because the L1 is on display and an integral part of the classroom environment. This visibility allows all the students in the classroom to become familiar with the ELL’s L1 and helps provide a more supportive learning environment for bilingual children. In a recent study of vocabulary instruction, Carlo, August, McLaughlin, Snow, Dressler, Lippman, Lively, and White (2004) suggested using Word Walls to increase vocabulary development in both native and non-native English speakers.
Hanna is a fourth grader from Korea. She arrived in Mr. Brown’s science class halfway through the spring semester. Hanna has studied English grammar. However, she is shy and struggles with speaking. Mr. Brown puts Hanna in a group with 3 native English speakers working on a word wall project. Using the text as a guide, the students create a glossary for a unit on the solar system using both English and Korean. Hanna is able to participate with the other students while having little pressure to speak in front of a large audience. Other students in class ask her how to pronounce the words in Korean.