The Science of Reading is the new word in the classroom. What is it and why does it matter? The Science of Reading is all about improving reading! When students have trouble with reading, it usually trickles over into other areas. One of the components of the Science of Reading is using a Sound Wall in your classroom. According to recent research, when you create a sound wall in your classroom, students will have a deeper understanding of reading principles. How do you create and use a sound wall in your classroom? Simple, by following this guide!
First, What is the Science of Reading?
To start, what is all this talk about the Science of Reading? Essentially, the Science of Reading is a body of work including the study and research about how people learn to read and write. Because it isn’t a program, an approach, or a specific strategy, teachers can use the research to enhance learning in their classroom. One of the tools the Science of Reading suggests is the use of a sound wall.
What is a Sound Wall?
Much like a word call, a sound wall is a place to display the different sounds heard in speech. There are two parts of a sound wall that can be displayed: consonant sounds and vowel sounds. In a sound wall, the focus is on the sound and not the letters. For example, the ph- sound would go with the /f/ sound.
It’s important to keep in mind when you create a sound wall in your classroom, there are over forty phonemes and twenty six graphemes. It’s important for students to know the phonemes first ino order to understand phoneme-grapheme correspondence.
What to Include When You Create A Sound Wall
When you create a sound wall, it’s important to think about more than just putting the phonetic pronunciation on the wall. You might also want to include some pictorial representations of phonemes as well. Some ideas to help you create a sound wall might include:
- A photo of the mouth making the given speech sound.
- Pictures of items that have that beginning sound
Beyond pictures, you can also display words that contain the sound. Then, you can use the initial sound for consonants, and the initial or medial for vowels. Finally, you can highlight the sound in the word. Highlighting parts of the word can be a good tool to use to draw student attention.
When you create a sound wall, you want to make sure you separate your consonants and vowels.
Creating Your Consonant Sound Wall
Sometimes it can be hard to start to organize your consonants on a sound wall. I like to organize them by the manner of articulation. So when I create a sound wall, I start with sounds that you make with the fount of the mouth and continue until you reach the sounds made in teh back of the mouth. This is the order I use:
- Start with stops. These are sounds that have an audible puff of air that is released. In other words, it has an aspiration.
- Next I move to nasal sounds. A nasal sound can escape through the nose when saying these sounds. I always use a picture of a nose as a visual cue for these sounds on the consonant sound wall.
- Then I move to fricatives. These sounds are created when your mouths get narrow and we force air through the narrow passage our mouth makes.
- Next are affricates which are the /ch/ and /j/ sounds
- Then we have slides which are sounds that glide into a vowel sound.
- Finally you have liquids. These are more “slippery” sounds that involve the tongue touching the top of the mouth.
It’s important to introduce each of the sounds in small chunks. I create a sound wall at the beginning of the year and just use sticky notes to cover up the sounds we haven’t introduced yet. This is also fun for students because there is a “big reveal” when we learn a new sound.
Create a Sound Wall for Vowels
When using the Science of Reading, many vowel sections are organized in a V shape and referred to as a “vowel valley.” This means they organize the order of mouth placement. This is how you should arrange the vowel sounds:
- Start with vowels that make us open our mouths and say /o/ like the doctor tells us to do. This is a short /a/ sound.
- Then move to vowels that make us round our mouths and say /oo/ like a long /u/. In other words, pretend like you’re looking at fireworks.
Using Your Sound Wall
Once you have your sound wall up, you have to make sure it’s running! In order for your sound wall to truly work, you have to use it every single day. Review and repetition are important when it comes to phonics mastery. Using the sound wall to help students understand individual phonemes will help them be able to map printed letter strings to familiar phoneme sequences. This is called orthographic mapping.
When you work on your sound wall and the sounds you work on first, it really will depend on you and your classroom. You know your students best. No matter how you choose to introduce sounds, you want to make sure when you create a sound wall in your classroom, you are using it!
If you need phonics resources, make sure you check them out here!
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