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Word Walls vs Sound Walls

Updated: May 31, 2020

Word Walls vs Sound Walls

Sight words. I have a love/hate relationship with sight words. On one hand, they are a great

stepping stone for beginning readers to become more confident in reading. On the other hand, I hate that kiddos rely on memorizing words. I want my students to be able to decode a word, to work with it and tear it apart, and understand what each letter or blend does to create a word. Sure, sight words are super helpful, but I don't want to rely on straight up memorization. I want them to understand English.

Word walls. Again, a love/hate relationship with this! I love that students have a place where they can look at different words and read which words they've been working on, as well as seeing other words that start with the same beginning sounds as other words...until they don't. Why does the word "almost" go under the "a" when it starts like a short o? I tell my kids to go look at the word wall and they always go to the o's and then complain that they

can't find it. How in the world would they know that it's an a?! There are so many words (yes, especially sight words) that are exceptions to the rule. As an adult, of course I know that "almost" is filed under a, but I'm an ADULT - not a kiddo just learning how to read and how to manipulate sounds in words. Talk about confusing! My second issue with words walls is that they are SO stationary. If a kid wants to reference it, they have to drag their entire job over to the word wall to spell one thing. Let's be real here, how many times does that actually happen? Try zero.

Okay, okay, enough complaining. Now, what do we do about it?!


Sound Stations

Ever heard of these? Some call them sound walls or sound boards, but I mixed mine up a little. Sure, mine is "displayed" on a bulletin board, but it is completely portable.

Here's the lowdown:

  • Words are split up by their beginning sound, not the beginning letter

  • There is a difference for short and long vowels!

  • Beginning chunks have their own sound, so they get their own hook

Here's how I made it mine:

  • My words are on a ring so you can take them off of the board and bring them to your work station - talk about kid friendly!

  • They are kid-height! How many times have you seen bulletin boards that are 5-6 feet up in the air? No kid is going to reference that.

  • I went ahead and coded all of my sight word cards. There's a symbol for short vowels, long vowels, silent letters, chunks, and even blends!

  • I started with Fry's first 300 sight words, but no need to stop there. I can add color words, calendar words, class names, vocabulary words, anything!

Here's what my sound station looks like!

I'll be honest, it was quite a big undertaking! My teacher friend, Bri, and I stayed after school about 3 hours to get it all completed - but boy was it worth it. My kids are now grabbing the rings every time they are writing in writer's workshop and even when we do free journal time. It's awesome. I hear discussion like, "I didn't know are started with an a! It just sounds like an r!" It makes my teacher heart so proud! So, take the plunge and switch from the old word wall to a sound wall (and be sure to make it portable!).

If you'd like to use my coded sight words, you can click on the pictures below to follow the link; it'll take you to my teacherspayteachers store where you can purchase them. (Look at the bundle, it's cheaper!) In the future, I'm hoping to go up through list #5 of Fry sight words, so my teacher friends of older grades can continue to use sound walls, too!

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