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Deedee Wills - Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

Word Walls or Sound Walls in a Science of Reading Classroom

Deedee and Adam continue to talk about the Science of Reading and specifically get into the differences between sound walls and word walls in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms.
Listen in as they discuss an article found on Reading Rockets:

Word Walls or Sound Walls in a Science of Reading Classroom

Adam Peterson  0:03  

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. My name is Adam Peterson.


Deedee Wills  0:06  

Hi, I am Deedee Wills.


Adam Peterson  0:07  

It feels like we need to reintroduce ourselves.


Deedee Wills  0:10  

I know. Hey, hey excuse me, sir, my name is Deedee Wills.


Adam Peterson  0:14  

How are you, listeners? This is Adam and Deedee again.


Deedee Wills  0:16  

Okay, our semi-annual podcast.


Adam Peterson  0:19  

I know.  You’ve been, our semi-annual that’s good. It’s so hard to find the time. Like, I feel like when we both weren’t as busy. It felt kind of weird saying that because it was like we had plenty of time to record. Who are we to say we don’t have time like teachers don’t have time right now? But you’re back in the classroom quite a bit.


Deedee Wills  0:38  



Adam Peterson  0:38  

I’m working in a new position with an education company Alive Studios with some of our friends. It’s insane right now trying to find time to do this. But we want to try two episodes out for y’all because we keep hearing from people that you want more. So it’s good to see you.


Deedee Wills  0:51  

Yes. So I’m so glad to be back. Yeah, it’s been really busy in a good way. So. But you know, our schedules are like two ships passing in the night, like, what’s good for me, and what’s good for you. I haven’t really lined up, but we’re gonna make a better I’m not gonna say that we say that every time.


Adam Peterson  1:08  

You would say every time. We gonna make it. 


Deedee Wills  1:08  

The next one is coming, when it’s coming folks. 


Adam Peterson  1:11  

It’s just, you know, it’ll, it’ll show up in your feed somewhere.


Deedee Wills  1:15  

Christmas it always comes. So we’ll just, you know, we’ll get another one out before Christmas.


Adam Peterson  1:20  

There you go. Well, I love our topic today. I know that you all know Deedee is super passionate and very, very driven to learn as much about the science of reading as she can, I think you’ve kind of been at the forefront of that. As far as people outside the classroom go, I don’t know if that’s fair to say. You’ve been doing a lot of work to help teachers who are still in the classroom, kind of understand this and follow it and get on the right track. So I can’t imagine how lucky the teachers feel that you’re going to their classrooms all the time, to hang out with them. That’s got to be awesome.


Deedee Wills  1:54  

It’s been really fun. To be clear, I was slow to get on this boat. 


Adam Peterson  2:00  

But I think what, to be fair to everyone, you once you got on the boat, you were on to go.


Deedee Wills  2:05  

Yeah, when I was on the boat, I was like, let me hold the flag. And let me steer? Um, no, but once, once I, you know, made the shift. I was like that person who started that diet and then wants to tell everybody about it. You don’t? Baby, it’s like, people like blocked that person. Like that person. She’s gonna talk about that diet. 


Adam Peterson  2:25  

You CrossFit bro. Come on. Nothing against the Cross Fitters out there. Sorry.


Deedee Wills  2:30  

You know, this, but you know, science reading has is not brand new. It’s been preached by people, you know, tirelessly, since the early 2000s. And I’m sure there are people who were like, Yeah, finally, finally, you did get on the science of reading ship. But I do feel like a big responsibility to keep talking about it. Because there are some people who even you know, I was telling, those of you are listening, Adam was telling Adam earlier, I’m doing this webinar series. 


And I’ve been asking how many of you are currently using at least some of the science of reading and there’s still a third of classrooms out there who are brand new to it, don’t know it not using any of it. So I do feel like it’s a message that I want to continue to kind of talk about, but there’s lots of parts to it. And it’s overwhelming. And it’s like drinking through a firehose, and I feel myself, I guess, a little bit overwhelmed with all of the parts that feel new, you know, like a brand-new teacher, yep. If you’re new, but there’s some things that we can do that are just small changes that I think will have a big impact. So that’s what we want to talk about today.


Adam Peterson  3:21  

Well, I think there’s a lot of teachers out there too, that as they hear more about it like you introduced it to me. I mean, I’d heard the term but I never really, and I honestly have a full-hearted honestly, I have not really studied much about it other than talking to you. But I did notice as you were talking more and more about it over past episodes that you’ve shared articles with me and I’ve read through them. 


It’s like you said, it’s been around a long time. And I would almost bet that 99.9% of teachers are doing some of these things without really thinking about it. Like you’re doing the science of reading without knowing that you’re doing the science reading, right? Because it’s just natural. What we do anyway, it was kind of like when Common Core came along, like we were already doing those things. This got big fancy words added to it right or a new way to try it.


Deedee Wills  4:27  

Yeah. Now it’s much more intentional. And, and you know, we have this bucket of time that every teacher is given and it’s never enough. There’s never enough time there’s never enough money for resources period and a story exclamation point. Underline bold. Never, never enough. But if we can be more intentional on our instruction, it means that we don’t have to. We don’t have to go back as often to remediate because they’re getting it in a way that is easier for them to get it?


Adam Peterson  5:02  

Well. That’s why when I read Yeah, when I read this article today, I’m like, Yeah, I do these things, but I just don’t have this specific spot in a classroom to do. So. What we’re talking about today is sound walls versus word walls. And if you want to kind of get an introduction to it, Deedee, I think it’s a fantastic article that you found on Reading Rockets,


Deedee Wills  5:21  

Reading Rockets, which is a great place to find a lot of, you know, academic articles that are written in a way that like, you can digest quickly. Do you know what I mean?


Adam Peterson  5:33  

Yep. And I’m probably gonna butcher the name of the author of it was written by Marjorie Bottari or Bottare, BOTTARI is the author of this particular article called transitioning from word walls to sound walls. So what does that look like in a classroom that is trying to follow the science of reading Deedee?


Deedee Wills  5:52  

Right. Or even a classroom who is like I can’t mentally do that right now. I mean, it depends on when you are. Okay, so we’re recording this in February 2022?


Adam Peterson  6:05  

Is it February? I could go


Deedee Wills  6:08  

I know, February 2022. So if you’re listening to this podcast, and it’s a year from now, you know, time zone you may have forgotten how horrible this moment in time is for teachers. But, you know, right now, there’s a shortage of subs, people, teachers are working, you know, double time, triple time, trying to stay healthy, trying to keep their classroom, you know, there’s a lot on the plate. But this is something that you could do, you know, you could probably put it together in your classroom, in 30 minutes, probably take down your word wall, and put up a sound wall. And so, you know, could be an after-school thing. Listen to this podcast while you’re doing it. I don’t know, 


Adam Peterson  6:56  

There you go, I like that. 


Deedee Wills  6:57  

Or, you know, put on whatever music that makes your heart happy. 


Adam Peterson  7:00  

Before we dive in. I want to, I want to stop you there and ask. So if this was your let’s say you’re in a classroom full time again? 


Deedee Wills  7:08  



Adam Peterson  7:08  

Are you saying you would completely replace your like true sight word wall? 


Deedee Wills  7:15  



Adam Peterson  7:15  

With a sound wall? Or would you add an addition of a sound wall?


Deedee Wills  7:18  

I think I would take it down altogether.


Adam Peterson  7:21  

So, I love your high-frequency words would then become part of your sound wall. So really, if you think about this, folks, folks, how old am I if you think about this, folks, it’s really just rebranded kind of like, think about rebranding or redecorating the space of your classroom with intent. You know, I, when I first started teaching, I used to change up bulletin boards all the time, right? Like, I mean, I got to the point in my career where I was like, no way my room is gonna stay decorated, and we’ll put student work up. 


But I had that space. That was every year, it became a word wall, right? Like, I knew that that’s where that was gonna go. But one thing that I did do, and maybe this will help some of you teachers that are not wanting to make this, maybe you’re not ready, like you’re like, but I love my word wall, or my kids need it, or they focus on it. Our good friend, Kim Adsit, has an amazing pack called it’s called packet learn it on TPT packet learn it. 


And in that pack, she has what she gives each of our students called a traveling word wall. And I’ll be 100% honest, you that once I started using that in my classroom, rarely did I see my kids heading to the true word wall, right? Because they had everything they needed, right there with them. So I think that would be an easy transition step into doing what Deedee is about to talk about.


Deedee Wills  8:33  

Right, I love that suggestion. And maybe what you would also want to do is have a traveling word wall. Because I always had those as well in the writer’s folder. But then also, maybe on the back, you could put the traveling Sound wall here’s the difference, folks between a word wall if you’re not familiar with what they are.


Adam Peterson  8:53  

Yeah, we should probably get to that because there’s somebody and just get to the point, guys, come on. I got five minutes before I head into school.


Deedee Wills  8:58  

Yeah, I don’t make me Google this. Um, so like a word wall is very traditional, you know, it’s an alphabetical order. And so if you have the word AM you put it under A and LIGHT goes under L, and WHAT goes under W. So all of those letters go in our it’s like a, like a little dictionary page for you. Right? 


Adam Peterson  9:22  

The easiest way to put it. It’s true it’s a wall dictionary, yeah.


Deedee Wills  9:25  

Well, dictionary spelling page for them. And so but where the problem comes in is in the article gives you great examples is the word, SHE. If a student says SHE, and they’re looking on the word wall, and they don’t see you know, they’re looking under S, right? That fails them. However, you could have a word wall that has the diagraphs there as well, right? So you could have your diagraphs which would serve you in that but they would have to know that their mouth is making that that shape right then that’s where they would go to look.


Adam Peterson  10:01  

But then we run into the confusion of a word that in a digraph, like a WATCH is going to go under W, but it’s going to end with the CH. Now we need to find CH, to C, you know, so it makes total sense. All right, sorry.


Deedee Wills  10:13  

And then like words like KNEW, and you know, KNEW, some of those words, or WHO, also WH, that’s just, you know, defies all the reasoning, right? Right, that doesn’t go under W be under H, but it’s not there. So how do I know? And now all of a sudden, they’re using the word how, instead of who and anyhow.


Adam Peterson  10:39  

Alright, so teachers that are now freaking out and saying, I don’t want to take my word, we’re not saying throw everything away. Keep the cards you have, keep the word cards you have, 


Deedee Wills  10:46  

Yeah, keep the cards 


Adam Peterson  10:48  

That’s step one, take, take the alphabetizing down. And then listen to the next step that do and change the heading. It’s not gonna say our word wall anymore. It’s gonna say our sound wall, or 


Deedee Wills  10:56  

It’ll be our sound. Yeah. 


Adam Peterson  10:58  

So then you take all those cards, 


Deedee Wills  11:00  

You will be okay? scratch it out. Just write it on there, it doesn’t have to be a cute font, just write it, you’re gonna be okay. Um, what I would do if I, if this was February, and I’m listening to this, and I’m like, oh, I’m going to make the switch, I would take all the cards down, I would save them. I would not throw them away. Right? They’re beautiful. And then I would put my sound wall up, like the skeleton of my sound wall. 


And there is probably no way for me to describe what that’s going to look like. But there’s a great picture here in that article, but basically, instead of putting the words in, you would put the words that sound in order by what’s happening with your mouth, right? So all of the ones that are, she has a great way to kind of describe it, let me grab it in front of me so that I am looking at it.


Adam Peterson  11:52  

So it all goes by the manners of articulation. So yeah, stop or what we call plosive. Sounds puff of air but blockage in some part of the mouth. Can I’m reading this from the cannot continue to stretch the sounds like bees’ case? Any word that has something to do with B, K would be part of a? Am I in the right spot on this?


Deedee Wills  12:11  

A stuff. Yeah, so it’s a puff of air that comes out of your mouth. So you would put P, you probably put P, K, right B together. And what I’ll do in the show notes is I’ll list these sounds for people so they can go and find it. There are fricatives, those are the F in the V’s,


Adam Peterson  12:34  

That sounds like a swear word.


Deedee Wills  12:36  

It sounds like a really good word, don’t make me get all fricative on you. Um, there are nasal sounds, which are the M’s and the N’s, right? There’s more in here. So but basically, you would, you would organize the sounds by what’s happening with the mouth. And then they have pictures that will show you the A sound or the O sound. And then you start to arrange the sounds in that way.


Adam Peterson  13:03  

Which I love your idea of starting right now, Deedee he too, because most of your students, I’m thinking back to when I was in the Clarion classroom, most of my students at this point of the are reading a pretty decent level of the words the high-frequency words that are on the way, like they’ve got a good grasp. 


And once we put it on the wall, it is there. The benefit of starting your sound wall right now would be your kids can all help you start to resort to all those words, right? Like, next year, yes, they’re gonna have a good ownership piece of it, because you’re going to be putting them on the wall in that order. But now think about you got, let’s say 30 words on your word wall. What a great lesson on science, right to take all that down. And now as a class, start putting it back up with your students. 


And I’m a big, you know, me, I preach on that all the time. Like, I don’t save anchor charts. I don’t leave bulletin boards up; we remake everything every single year because the kids need to see the ownership and have part of it to make a meaning right. So I think now is a great time to make that switch. Because you have all the time in the world teachers, let’s be honest.


Deedee Wills  14:03  

I go, right. I mean, you got nothing but time. I mean, your time investment is going to be you know, you’re on your own time investment, I think is going to be setting the skeleton up, right, you know, and that is going to take a bit of time, you know, you’re gonna have to print some things out and you’re going to have to think about how you want to have it organized. But I think that doing with the students would be so powerful


Adam Peterson  14:25  

It would, it wouldn’t take you. I mean, it’d be a lesson in itself, right? So you’re doing a block. Now you’re doing a sound, you know the word sound, the letter sound.


Deedee Wills  14:34  

Right now they know how to do it. In fact, you know what, I might even try to do that with the classroom I’m working with because she has a sound wall. No, she has a word wall. It’s not going to be able to be for a couple of weeks but I’m feeling a blog post coming on by the time we actually publish this episode. 


Adam Peterson  14:53  

You’re gonna be like two months ago. 


Deedee Wills  14:56  

It’ll be like May anyhow but I do think feel like that would be something that would be? Yeah, I’m kind of pumped about that idea. 


Adam Peterson  15:05  

Right. Yeah. Well, here’s let me be honest here. When would you first sent me this? So here’s my first thought. I’m like, wait, Deedee and I have put together this amazing I think it’s amazing that that interactive word wall pack.


Deedee Wills  15:16  



Adam Peterson  15:17  

And I first thought exactly like many of you’re thinking like I’ve got this beautiful word wall or I bought this, from this TPT creator or you bought arts interactive word wall by Deedee Wilson and Adam Peterson you’re not getting rid of that, right? You’re not getting rid. Sorry, that was a total shameless self-promotion there. 


You’re not getting rid of those word wall cards. And honestly, the thing I love about you and I when we did that pack together is we really focused on the sounds the words make with the picture clues that we put up, we tried to get the kids to see the sounds in the words rather than just the letters in the word. So I really want you all to think that this is not telling you to redo completely restructure the way you’re teaching.


Deedee Wills  15:53  

You have 50  or you have 100 sight words


Adam Peterson  15:56  

A 100 sight words, right? 


Deedee Wills  15:57  

Yeah, you like a hard no, hard no.


Adam Peterson  15:59  

It’s really just how you’re remapping it on your wall. And I love that you use the term skeleton, that’s a great way to think about it because it is it’s kind of piecing together almost like a root system, right of a tree. Like they’re gonna branch out on your, your word wall. I was as I was reading this to you one thing that stuck out to me that definitely gives us some value or accreditation is that this was originally published by Haggerty Phonics or Haggerty Phonemic Awareness on their blog. So I use Haggerty for years and my classroom saw so much growth with it. So there’s some, I mean, there’s some science, no pun intended. There’s some science behind this. There’s some research behind it, for sure. 


Deedee Wills  16:35  

We’re not making this up, folks. This is like the real stuff. 


Adam Peterson  16:39  

Don’t you wish we had though? Because, gosh,


Deedee Wills  16:41  

Oh my gosh, I mean, but we could talk about UFOs because those are real to you.


Adam Peterson  16:45  

Those are and they’re starting to release more data on them. I am waiting, I am waiting. I remember I’m waiting for like Mark to officially retire so that we can talk about it. But then he’s gonna give me the same excuse that Kim’s husband Andy did when he retired from the Air Force. I was like, does this mean you can tell me everything that when he goes, I can’t tell you anything for the rest of my life. I’m sworn to secrecy like that means there is something


Deedee Wills  17:09  

That’s the whole part about secrecy. It’s a secret.


Adam Peterson  17:13  

There is something there. No, yeah, I would love to see a blog post or even I mean, if you’re getting a, I don’t know what the word is ambitious. Even just a little video of you guys doing this. In her classroom. Yeah,


Deedee Wills  17:27  

I have been videotaping but here’s what’s happening when I videotape and I go back and look at it I’m like, Oh girl, you put some weight on. That’s I would say, cool girl. So I don’t if I ever show those.


Adam Peterson  17:39  

I think a nice set up your phone on a tripod and just do a time-lapse video of you taking down her word wall and then putting up the sound wall so teachers can see start to finish. I think that yeah, I’m not really telling you how to do it. But I think that would be powerful for a teacher to see because we can preach all day look at these pictures right but, I think it’s some I know I would have to see it. I’m a very visual learner. I wait I would need to see how this is putting up pictures to tell the story but I think it’s a fantastic idea I want to go nutritious classroom and do this with her.


Deedee Wills  17:59  

I just open my trash can it made a big thunder.


Adam Peterson  18:16  

You like fell because I just saw your head go down through the noise the puffy. You are like those clowns they could knock down and puff.


Deedee Wills  18:24  

We’ll edit that out anyhow guys that’s what we wanted to talk about today. Um, just think about you know, it’s a small shift but I think it would yield really great results


Adam Peterson  18:33  

Yeah, word walls to sound walls. Reading Rockets check the link in the show notes. Um, Marjorie Bottari thank you awesome article. And a good find Deedee I like this. 


Deedee Wills  18:44  



Adam Peterson  18:44  

All right. Will talk to you guys soon. We promise we will talk to you soon. Bye.


About the Podcast

The Classroom Collaborative Podcast is a show about teaching, classroom, and education. We tackle new classroom tips and tricks in every episode.

About Your Hosts

Deedee Wills is an early childhood educator, instructional coach, and international educational consultant. She is also the author of the award-winning blog, Mrs. Wills Kindergarten.

Adam Peterson is a kindergarten teacher, nationally recognized speaker, and educational consultant. He also the creator of the popular YouTube channel,

I hope you enjoyed this episode! See you on the next one!

Deedee & Adam

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