Over the years, kindergarteners have shown me that the kinds of environmental tools that they will actually use are: ones which are at their level, ones which they have meaningful memories (or ownership) creating, ones which they can see themselves in (via photographs or interests), and ones which they can touch and interact with.
Such thinking led to a transformation of the word wall in our classroom.
First, we replaced static words on a magnetic board with moveable word cards in pocket charts (an idea shared with me by Nekia Wise, Assistant Principal of PS 59 in NYC). The pocket charts allow kids to access and interact with the word wall, taking the snap words (or high-frequency words) in and out of the pockets.
With this setup, kindergartners loved taking the cards that they needed during independent time and in small group instruction. So much so, that we needed additional copies of cards stacked behind each snap word in the pocket charts.
Due to high demand, we decided to keep the snap word pocket chart in an additional location –one that kids could quickly access near the writing center.
The words in this pocket chart, in contrast, were organized in the order in which we had learned them. Here, it became evident that children had an easier time finding the snap word they needed to spell. They also enjoyed the extra practice of reading all of the snap words together. Many children seemed to prefer and have success with this sequential ordering.
With this in mind, when our Staff Developer, Shanna Schwartz, shard an idea from Renée Dinnerstein’s kindergarten classroom — the snap word train — we were excited to give it a try.