Easy methods to arrange a wall of sound in your classroom

All of the talk about learning literacy and the science of reading is definitely encouraging teachers and schools to carefully review their teaching practices — and often explore new ones that will help children. One of them is the baffle. Check out these awesome resources to start using in your classroom.

What is a baffle?

This student resource shows the 44 phonemes (sounds) in the English language. It includes consonants and vowels and the different ways each sound is spelled.

How is a sound wall different from a word wall?

A sound wall is not a word wall. These two resources differ for the following reasons:

  • To use a word wall you need to be able to read the words, so children often need the teacher’s help. A noise barrier promotes independent use. It helps children progress from what they can – say sounds – to what they learn – to spell and read words that contain those sounds.
  • A word wall is organized in alphabetical order. Words are sorted by the first letter of each word. These are usually commonly used words or other commonly used words, such as B. the names of students. A wall of sound is organized according to how sounds are made. Sample words can contain these sounds at any position in the word. A sound wall also contains sounds represented by combinations of letters.
  • A word wall helps children learn individual words. A sound wall is designed to help children apply letters and in-depth knowledge to each applicable word.

How do you build a baffle?

1. Plan your space.

A sound wall should have two distinct sections, one for all consonants and one for vowels. You can plan to set up the wall with students while you teach sounds, or set up the entire display and cover sounds until you teach them.

Order consonant sounds based on how we pronounce them, from the front of the mouth to the back of the throat. Sounds that are generated similarly are grouped together. For example, /p/ and /b/ use the same mouth position even though /p/ is unvoiced and /b/ is voiced. They are neighbors at the sound barrier.

Source: Mrs. Winters Bliss

Arrange vowels in a “valley” shape that reflects how the mouth opens to produce each sound. The long /e/ sound uses a wide grin form. (Think “Cheese!”) The short /o/ sound uses an open “o” mouth shape and represents the bottom of the valley.

Source: Mrs. Winters Bliss

For a complete overview of the articulation of the 44 phonemes in the English language, and tips on how to introduce them to children, watch this approximately 39-minute workout by literacy specialist Mary Dahlgren. Also read her blog post to learn more about designing the space to support teaching.

2. Add picture hints and alternative spellings of sounds.

Picture hints with sample words for each sound are very helpful, as are photos of children’s mouths making each sound. Once children are familiar with the most common spellings of each sound, you can introduce alternative spellings—for example, the sound /c/ can be spelled with c, k, ck, or even ch, as in “school.” You can add these under the primary spelling.

Source: @dcorteswrites

3. Use it for class!

A common complaint about classroom word walls is that they can easily become part of the classroom wallpaper. So get that baffle going! Teach children what the language-related terms mean. Develop routines for teaching about each individual sound, or incorporate them into your existing phonological awareness and phonetics programs. Mrs. Winter’s Bliss has a helpful step-by-step primer.

More sound wall inspiration and tips

Putting up a wall of sound can be daunting, especially if you are new to this way of thinking about and teaching sound. Here are some more examples and ways to inspire you.

Reuse materials you already have

You don’t have to start from scratch – you can rearrange existing alphabet cards!

Source: @redlipsandapples

unlock sounds

Add some motivational drama by “unlocking” sounds. Discover them one by one as you teach them.

Source: @mrglynnprincipal

Add user-friendly details

Encourage kids to use your sound wall as a spelling aid by adding mirrors. They can look at themselves saying the sounds in a word and match their mouth positions to the visemes. A convenient place to write helps too!

Source: @atomissz

Add some high frequency words

If you loved having high frequency words on a word wall, there’s no reason you can’t add some of these to a sound wall. Focus on helping children connect the sounds in the words to the letters that represent them.

Source: @lappslibrary

Make it desk size

Personal resources can be invaluable to some children.

Source: @sweetfirstiefun

Do you have a baffle in your classroom? Tell us about it in the comments!

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