About 7 years ago, I looked around my classroom. My walls were filled with helpful visuals for math, reading, science and other topics. It was pretty, but something was missing. The primary language in my classroom was ASL. I had literally NOTHING up on those walls to represent the language of my students. I felt like an imposter. My students deserved equal representation in ASL. So like any teacher, I got to work, learning how to create products that represented my students. This American Sign Language Word Wall not only represents all the vocabulary we are learning but it’s highly functional too.
Word walls aren’t just classroom decor, they are an essential part of literacy instruction. They are a visual representation of the vocabulary used daily in your classroom. Word walls support, learning the alphabet, alphabetic order, recognition of beginning sounds/letters, sight words, essential content vocabulary and are a helpful resource to support independent student learning.
How to support vocabulary acquisition in the classroom using a word wall.
Display your word wall and refer to it frequently.
Put up words on the wall as they are introduced in instruction. If you are a 2nd or 3rd grade teacher, and you are starting with a base set of words, take time at the beginning of the year to review “words they should already know.” Be intentional about placing them on the word wall, discuss the beginning letter, the number of letters in the word and the parameters of the sign. Discuss if the word is used in both ASL and English or English only. (as in the case of words like the, it, is etc) Also, remember to discuss if there are other meanings or signs for the word other than the representation displayed on the word card.
Make your word wall portable
You can do this by making the words moveable by using tacks, magnets, velcro, etc. or by attaching the words by a ring. This way when students need a word, they are able to take the word off the wall and bring it to their desk. When returning the word, the students must determine where it belongs thus supporting their knowledge of alphabetical order.
Allow your students to make their own dictionaries.
This can be done simply by having students write words in their own notebooks. Additionally ,you can print the words from the word wall and use them for students to make their own portable dictionaries. These personal dictionaries now be used anywhere, at home, at school or in another class. Have your students refer to their dictionaries whenever possible! Yes, it takes more time, but it creates a sense of ownership and helps students to be independent learners. For a detailed description of how to make the student dictionary pictured below go to How to Make an ASL Student Dictionary.
BE INTENTIONAL about teaching the vocabulary at every possible moment.
If a student chooses the wrong word from the dictionary/word wall to use in their writing take the time to explain WHAT the difference is in the two words. For example if a student looks in the dictionary and writes the word yes instead of you. Go back and explain the differences in English and ASL. (Both words start with a y and have three letters. By looking at the sign we can see the position is the same but the hand shape and the movement are different.)
Choose the dictionary and word wall style that works the best for you and your students.
The options with this ASL Word Wall are endless. I know that within one deaf education classroom, I may have a large variety of students with various levels of English and American Sign Language Vocabulary. This may even change from year to year. Don’t be afraid to change it up and add something different if what you are doing isn’t working for a particular group of students. One added feature that I LOVE are these QR codes. Let’s face it, a picture representation of a sign is sometimes not enough. So having the option to see a video representation in ASL is fabulous! It’s both motivating for students to use an extremely helpful in moving that word from short-term to long term memory.
Creating independent learners with an ASL Word Wall is no easy task, but with so many options for classroom display and use, I know you will be able to find a system that works for you and your students.
Click here to grab the FREE Alphabet Headers, and gain access to the VIP Free Resource Library.
Click here to go to purchase the ASL Word Wall bundle (Alphabet headers included.)
What’s included in the ASL Word Wall
- 300+ sight words from the Dolch word list
- ASL hand shape Word Wall headers
- ASL alphabet headers represented in dark, and light skinned versions as well as black and white line art.
- 2 pre-made ASL Student dictionaries and the option to make your own dictionary using the word wall words
- QR codes added to the word cards with video representation of each signed word. (internet connection required)
NOTE: This resource was originally created in 2016 but received a major update in the Fall of 2019. If you have purchased it previously, you will get the updates for free. You will know when you click on the link above because it will say download now instead of purchase.