Why You Should Use a Sound Wall in the Classroom for Phonemic Awareness

Move over Word Wall, Sound Walls are ready to take your place. Have you heard about sound walls?  I'm ditching my word wall this year for a sound wall.  My kindergartners were never really good at using a word wall.  After spending time learning about sound walls and the Science of Reading,  I now know why word walls never really worked.

Sound Walks in kindergarten-Science of Reading

What is a Sound Wall?

A sound wall is a way to organize phonemes and spelling patterns. Students can reference a sound wall when they are spelling and reading words. The words on a sound wall are grouped by phonemes.  They are NOT grouped by beginning letters. There are 44 phonemes in the English language. In kindergarten, there are some phonemes we explicitly teach, and some we do not.

In a classroom, there are usually two walls a Consonant wall and a Vowel Valley. the vowel sound wall is organized in the shape of a valley or V.  It mirrors the way our mouth is shaped as different vowel sounds are articulated. The consonant walls are organized by what the moth does in the manner of articulation.
  • Stops - airflow is completely obstructed by the lips. 
  • Nasals - airflow is obstructed in the mouth but released through the nose. 
  • Affricates - begins as a stop, but ends as a fricative. 
  • Fricatives - air flows, but friction is created by small separations between articulators.
  • Glides - no friction in the airflow, but changes in sound are produced by the placement of the tongue and lips.
  • Liquids - the tongue creates a partial closure in the mouth that redirects airflow.

What Does a Sound Wall Do?

A sound wall does the work of matching our articulation of speech sounds/phonemes to the letters/graphemes that represent those sounds.

The sounds/phonemes are grouped together on the wall by how we articulate each sound with our mouths. The sounds for /t/ and /d/ would be grouped together.  One is a voiced sound the other is not.  

Parts of a Sound Wall

There are several parts to a sound wall: 
  • the mouth formation- picture to demonstrate how the sound is articulated
  • phoneme card- represents how the sound is formed and will note voiced and unvoiced sounds
  • pictures- the picture matches the sound.  These photos help students connect a picture to the sound 
  • graphemes/spelling-these cards demonstrate how to spell each sound.

I am excited this year to try a sound wall with my class.  Using a sound wall just makes so much more sense to me now.  My students will be able to find the letters to spell words by using the sounds they hear and the way their tongue and mouth form, to make the sounds.
sound wall SOR

Portable Sound Walls

For my students writing folders, I will be adding these individual sound walls. They include consonant sounds and the vowel valley.

To help my kids learn about how their mouths work to form sounds, I purchased small mirrors from Amazon.  These are the mirrors.

I'm also going to use these alphabet books this year with my class.  My students can practice letter search, letter formation, and beginning reading skills.

SOR books Science of Reading
sound walls and vowel valley
If you want to read more about Sound Walls, Reading Rockets has a great description. So, what are your thoughts, are you ready to ditch your word wall and try a sound wall? 
Sound walls in kindergarten

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