Ideas for Using Word Banks


"How do you spell cow?"... "How do you spell horse?" ..."How do you spell barn?"...

If you're a teacher, chances are you have spelled a LOT of words. You've probably said "sound it out" and "stretch it out" and "what sound do you hear first" and "what words do you know like that word" until you thought you were going crazy! Kudos to you if you used those cues, but sometimes it is very, very, very helpful to have a word bank!

Kids love word banks! Word banks encourage them to write new vocabulary words they may not have used before. They give kids the confidence to write words they could not spell on their own. They include words with phonics and spelling patterns you may not have introduced yet. Word banks also allow them to begin editing their work by checking their spelling.

Teachers love word banks! Word banks allow you to focus on your small group without leaving your independent kids flailing in deep end of the writing pool. Providing word banks introduces kids to a strategy for checking the spelling of unknown words (like how I text myself to see if I am mispelling something). Word banks also provide inspiration for students who struggle with a topic or details.

With my little ones, I like to use word banks that have pictures to match every word. With young writers, there is a good chance that if they can't spell it, they might not be able read it in a list of words. Pictures help them find the word and support them when they are illustrating.

Here are some of the ways teachers are using word banks in their classroom.

Classroom Posters
You can create beautiful anchor charts for your classroom. These posters can be permanent displays or they can be updated with changing seasons and themes. They are perfect for Read the Room activities too!


Writer's Notebooks
You can glue word banks into your students' writing notebooks. This provides them with support as they are writing about new topics. They can always go back to the word bank to practice reading words or spelling words.

Classroom Word Book
A classroom word book is a simple and effective way to keep all of your word banks organized and ready for kids! Just put each page into a page projector and then put them in a binder. Kids can flip through the pages to find the words that need. You can glue ribbons to the back of the binder to create page markers.


You can keep your Classroom Word Book at your writing center. Some teachers choose to make several copies for their classroom so fewer students have to share.

Writing Center
Setting up a new writing center has never been easier! Simply choose a topic for your little writers and add the matching word bank! You can attach the word banks to a bulletin board, put them inside clear plastic frames, or glue them on the outside of a folder.

If you want to add something special, you can dress up your center with decorations, pencils from the Dollar Spot, or cute papers. Here are some of my favorite writing centers:











Word Folders
Word folders are portable word banks. Writers can grab the folder they need, take it to their seat for writing, and then return it when they are finished. You can get this Family Word Bank for free here.


Here are a few more examples of word banks for your classroom!
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3 Ways to Help Kids Do Their Best


Did you ever say something totally unplanned while teaching that really stuck with your kids? For me it was the expression "stick figures in a hurricane!" I have used those words again and again, year after year, but here is how it started....
I was talking to my class about doing their personal best work, taking their time, making their pictures match their words, yada yada yada. To emphasize my point, I was modeling how carelessly some of them were working. "If I only look at your picture, it looks like you are writing about stick figures in a hurricane!" I quickly drew a stick figure and scribbled all over it. They all giggled and insisted they NEVER do that, but the example stuck with them.  I made a big X over the picture and hung it on the board. Eventually there was a whole collection of stick figures in hurricanes hanging on that board.  During inside recess, the kids would crack themselves up as they would draw them and then beg me to add them to the board.
They were being silly at recess, but the expression worked. When they were illustrating their work, I could sometimes hear them say "NO stick figures in a hurricane!" They would concentrate on making a meaningful pictures, adding details, and coloring carefully.

Here are 3 simple tricks to avoid having stick figures in hurricanes:

1, TEACH
I have found that you really have to TEACH kids how to do their personal best work. Each year I make best work anchor charts with my class. We talk about the characteristics of our best work. I like using I can statements because it emphasizes the fact that they CAN do it! This one is for illustrations:



We spend a lot of time practicing how to do our best work. Spending time practicing our personal best is just as important as practicing any other classroom routine! You can get the anchor chart and all of the practice pages here.


2. SCRIBBLE
I will model how to do our personal best throughout the year. One of my favorite ways is to make an example and a non-example right in front of the kids. Before I pass out a paper to my kiddos, I will hang two of the papers on the board.  I will carefully write and color on one of them. I work at the speed I would really work if I needed to turn the sample into someone, which is actually rather slow. (You don't have to finish it, just do enough so they get the idea.) I will write and scribble on the other really quickly. Be prepared for giggles- it's so funny to watch a teacher be messy!
I take a step back and ask the kiddos which one is my personal best. Of course, they will all point to the neat paper. "But I got done first with this one! What is wrong with it?" I will say as I point to the non-example. Be prepared for the world's most brutal critics! They will tell you how it looks terrible, how you didn't even try, how you were rushing, and how it's the messiest thing they ever saw in their whole entire 6 years of life.

3. LIE
What??? That's right- sometimes a little lie can work wonders! I usually use these fibs when I am trying to encourage  my kiddos to do their best. Here are two of my favorite best work lies that work like a charm:

I was talking to my friend Mrs. B, who teaches 6th grade, and she saw your work on your desks. She said it is better than some 6th grade work! Can you believe it???

Can I take a picture of  you working?  I save pictures of kids doing their personal best in a special album... No sorry, you can't see it right now. It's at my house.


What do I do with all those beautiful papers I get? I put them in the Best Work Basket! I keep in on my counter. When I see someone who has done their personal best, I let them put their paper in the basket. At the end of the week I pull out 3 or 4 papers and those kids get to eat lunch in the classroom with me! You can grab the basket labels for free here.


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