|Word Walls: Color-Coded Vocabulary|
For a number of years The Craig School has adopted color-coded binders for individual subject areas as an organizational strategy. The color-coding concept is now being extended further to include chapters in textbooks and specific words within the chapters. For example, in lower school math classrooms, each of the 12 chapters in the textbook is copied in a different color. Within each chapter, 10 to 12 vocabulary words are selected, printed in a color matching the chapter color, laminated and then placed on a bulletin board. The selected vocabulary words represent concepts that children will encounter over and over again as they develop basic math skills. Without the language of the subject solidly grounded, students cannot progress to more complex levels of a given subject. "Texts have changed dramatically over the years," reports Mrs. Kopacz. "The math involves a lot of reading and being able to read and understand the vocabulary has become very important. The majority of the Terra Nova national test questions now involve reading problems with multiple choice answers. There is far more emphasis on the how and why rather than on direct mathematical computation."
Vocabulary acquisition, particularly among the population of children with learning differences is receiving more attention among educators. An article in "Perspectives," the International Dyslexia Association publication, noted that "Since intelligence tests tend to weight vocabulary knowledge in their scores, often the measured IQs of children with learning disabilities tend to fall over time ... In many of these cases, the child's intelligence is unchanged, but the child appears less intelligent because of the lack of growth to vocabulary over the years. The article concludes with "Active vocabulary instruction should permeate a classroom, not just be a small segment at the beginning of a basal story."1
The method of matching the color of the chapter with the vocabulary words in the chapter is just one example of the emphasis on vocabulary in the classroom. At Craig one can see a variety of "word walls" displayed on classroom bulletin boards. Each "word wall" shows vocabulary specific to a subject area. Whenever the teacher encounters the word in a specific lesson, the child has a visual referent. At the end of a chapter, various activities may reinforce the "word wall" vocabulary.
For example, one teacher makes copies of the words and their definitions, has the children cut them out and then mix them up. The children work in pairs or small groups to match the words with their definitions much like a jigsaw puzzle. This type of active learning is critical to the success of vocabulary acquisition since research has shown that memorization alone is not effective for comprehension.2 The activities may vary with the types of "word walls" displayed in each classroom at Craig. Depending on the subject area, all teachers give serious attention to vocabulary learning and incorporate the words in the curriculum.
1. Stahl, S. (2004) Scaly? Audacious? Debris? Salubrious? Vocabulary learning and the child with learning disabilities. Perspectives, The International Dyslexia Association, 6, 11.
2. Stahl, S. & Fairbanks, M. (1986) The effects of vocabulary instruction: A model-based meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 56, 72-110.