5 More Ways to Use a Sound Wall in the Classroom

In this post, I share 5 simple things you can do to get students to engage with your classroom sound wall.  I’ll share simple instructional routines you can implement, sound wall games, and routines for review. Looking for more information on sound walls and how to implement them in the classroom? Take a look at my NEW Sound Wall Course!

I have heard from so many teachers who have started using a sound wall in their classroom this year and it makes me so excited!  A sound wall is a tool that allows you to provide your students with the explicit phonemic awareness and phonics instruction they need to become successful readers and writers.  But we know that in order for a sound wall to really become an effective teaching and learning tool, students must have LOTS of opportunities to interact and engage with it.    

In this blog post, I shared details about the Sound Wall Teacher’s Guide.  This is a guide that provides you with explicit and systematic lesson plans, as well as student activities for introducing and using a sound wall. These lessons and activities are a wonderful way to help you establish instructional routines for your sound wall.  But I’ve got some other ideas to make your sound wall accessible and engaging for students…

Today I’m excited to share 5 simple things you can do to make the most of the sound wall in your classroom!  I’ll share sound wall games, and a few simple instructional routines you can implement in your classroom to keep your students excited about and accustomed to using the sound wall!


Ways to Get Students to Interact with the Sound Wall

1.  Use a “real” key to “unlock” the graphemes as you teach them.  

Many teachers express concern that a sound wall is too visually stimulating for their students.  One way to make it less overwhelming is to cover or “lock” the graphemes you have not yet taught using these lock cards.  

When it comes time to teach a sound you just uncover or “unlock” the graphemes.  It sounds simple, but using a REAL key to unlock the sound really helps build anticipation and excitement for students.  When you unlock that new sound with a real key students will literally be on the edge of their seats! 

2. Have students use mirrors to examine and discuss what the lips, tongue, and teeth are doing when making the sound.

When you introduce a new sound, you explicitly teach students where in the mouth the sound is formed. You show them exactly what their lips, tongue, and teeth are doing when making the sound.  

When you practice making the sound together, make it more exciting by giving each student their own small pocket mirror.  This mirror will allow them to see what their lips, teeth, and tongue are doing when they produce the phonemes.  It is more engaging (and effective!) for them to actually SEE themselves forming the sounds!   

3. Give students printable sound walls to use at their seat.  

We want a sound wall to be a tool students refer to regularly. Sometimes it is helpful for students to have their own mini sound wall at their seat.

Using this Build Your Own Sound Wall printable, students can cut out the focus sound spelling card and paste it in the appropriate spot.  They will enjoy growing their mini sound wall along with yours! 

Another option is to give your students a mini printable sound wall and have them color in the focus sound spelling cards that you have taught. This is a good option if you prefer to skip the cutting and pasting! 

Either of these options allows students to easily and quickly reference a sound wall while working independently at their seats.

4. Play Sound Wall Center Games!

Research tells us that quality instruction must include cumulative practice.  This means once a student moves forward with a new concept, they must continue to review the skills they’ve already learned. One highly engaging way to provide students with cumulative review is through games! 

sound wall articulation gestures game
sound wall mystery words game

In this blog post, I shared how you can print smaller versions of your sound wall cards and play games like Go Fish, Memory, Articulation Games, and Mystery Words Games. 

Each of these games follow the essential, evidence-based principles of quality instruction.  They take what we know about how students learn to read and put it into practice. They offer students practice that is explicit, engaging, and multi-sensory.  And best of all… these engaging sound wall games require minimal prep from you!!  

Read more about these sound wall games here.

5.  Use the Sound Wall as a Tool for Review

We know that in order for students to master the skills we teach, they require a lot of practice and review. Before introducing a new sound or skill, take a few minutes to look over and discuss the sounds you have already taught on the sound wall.

You can review the articulation of a sound by asking your students some of the following questions:

-What parts of your mouth did you use to say that sound?

-Did your tongue move? How did it move? Where did it move?

-Is it a mouth sound or a nose sound?

Is your voice on or off?

Help your students review the sounds by playing a quick and engaging “I’m thinking of a sound game”. Simply pick a sound that you have already taught, make that sound for your students and have them tell you which letters make that sound. This is a simple and quick activity that will get students interacting with and reviewing the sounds on the sound wall.

I hope the information I have provided here today will help to make your sound wall a more effective and engaging teaching and learning tool in your classroom!  I’d love to hear of other ways you use your sound wall! Let me know in the comments below! 

Are you looking for more help with your classroom sound wall?

I’ve got just the thing for you!

My new course, The Science of Sound Walls, will take all the guesswork out of using your sound wall. This virtual course is your complete training and implementation plan for using a sound wall in your kindergarten, 1st and 2nd-grade classroom.

DIscover what is inside The Science of Sound Walls here.

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