Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Effect of Posting Word Walls and Vocabulary at the Secondary Level

I sat down and did a quick count of the "new" vocabulary that students encounter in Geometry.  If I discount the ones that students 'should' have heard before, I am still left with over 200 crucial terms, formulas and figures that students are expected to master by the end of a school year.  Yep, over addition to writing English papers, reading literature and history (and all the intricacies that it entails), science, electives and too many other things to list.  I don't know about you, but even just reading that list makes my brain hurt.  In an effort to help my students achieve mastery, I took it upon myself to create word walls of all of the major terms, figures and such.  

 First Semester Bundle
First Semester Bundle

Each entry on my word walls includes the term, its definition, a diagram and/or example and other pertinent facts.  I broke my terms into semesters (first and second) and then further subdivided it into units.  I have found that keep them all up for the course of an entire semester has resulted in some fantastic results.

1)  My students refer back to the walls when they are stuck or don't remember something from a previous unit.  Their frustration level has decreased a great deal because they have a quick reference if they get stuck instead of having to flip through the book, their folders or other reference materials.

Second Semester Bundle
2)  Their ability to explain their thinking has increased dramatically because they have a better grasp of the vocabulary and how the concepts fit together.  For example, when we recently did our congruent triangle proofs, students were more successful because they were able to better remember facts about midpoints, bisectors and isosceles triangles - all of which are posted on the walls.

3)  Students are more focused on the concepts that we are studying because they can see how all the pieces are fitting together and they can see where we are headed.  I open the first week of school by telling the students that what is illustrated on my walls will be what we are studying.  We talk about what they already know and what impressions they have about what they are going to learn.

4)  My room just looks more put together and is a better reflection of high school.  Strange I know, but at the secondary level it is difficult to find decorations that are "older" instead of "elementary".

While it hasn't solved the entire problem of the horrendously long list of things that students today need to remember, it has helped and as teachers, that is one of the best things we can!  

If you want to read more about word walls, my friend over at Scaffolded Math and Science shared their own experience with word walls in this blog post.  They also shared a link with me to their spectacular word wall for Algebra 2 available here.  The description includes "...references for domain, range, increasing and decreasing in interval notation, ... Also included is a quadratic example graph showing the vertex, the equation in vertex form (and how those two relate), domain, range, increasing and decreasing. ... how the x and y at the vertex can show up in domain (in the radical example) and range."

If you are looking for more of an Algebra 1 word wall then check out All Thing Algebra's "Relations & Linear Functions: Word Wall Cards + Template".  Not only does it include the terms "coordinate plane, quadrants, origin, ordered pair, relation, domain, range, mapping, discrete graph, continuous graph, function, function notation, vertical line test, zeros, slope, slope formula, zero slope, undefined slope, positive slope, negative slope, slope-intercept form, standard form, x- and y-intercepts, horizontal line, vertical line, parallel lines, and perpendicular lines" but it also includes a bonus template to create your own.  

If your needs fall into the middle level then check out Lindsay Perro's "Middle School Math Vocabulary Cards  "The product includes "120+ Common Core related vocabulary words. Each page includes three cards - one with the word, another with the definition and another with an example. Use together on a word wall or as a matching activity to help students learn the words that are critical to common core success in middle school! These cards would work great as a math center in your classroom! Included are both color and black and white versions. Also included are templates in PowerPoint so you can add your own words!"

To the Square Inch- Kate Bing Coners has taken the idea of math word walls one step further and not only offers them in English but in Spanish too!  Both sets feature "Common Core based word wall words with illustrations with super bright colored backgrounds."   The Spanish ones are "Perfect for bilingual classrooms, ELL classes, Spanish math classes or supporting your English Language Learners."  I encourage you to check them out!  I know I will be :) 

I would love to know how you use word wall cards.  Comment below and I'll chose one lucky commenter to receive their choice of one of my twelve sets of word wall posters!!!  
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