In numerous literacy classes that I have taken, the idea of a concept wall has been presented to help students track a subject from its start to finish. The wall becomes a living wall that students can add and change as they move through a subject. It can contain definitions, ideas, concepts, or key details. It is not a word wall, but can be used to introduce, and house new vocabulary.
I like to watch how each wall are reflective of the class that is building it. They take ownership for what is added to it and what is needed. My role is to help them focus their attention on an idea or concept that might be important to our understanding. It then takes on the ideas of the class and not what I find to be relevant, it is what they feel they need to add to remember.
I choose our first concept wall on our biography. I only added the name Columbus and will only add the main headings for this first wall so they can see what direction and items can be added to the wall.
Everyday that we read, I will watch for key ideas, details, vocabulary, and concepts to add to our wall. In the beginning, it is on the teacher's shoulders to model how to add information or change information added to it. It is also important to model how you can use text features to shape your wall and bring items to attention.
A good concept wall will change as your subject develops.
A good concept wall will be flexible, meaning that it will change as you and your students need it to. For my wall, we add information that we feel is needed to continue our understanding. When we began to read about the first voyage, we read information about the materials that were needed. I places a title card onto the concept wall and had students use the text to fill in the list of needs. I asked them to use bullets to organize the information. I assign one or two students to take on this task so that the rest of the class can discuss what they are writing. These students then add their sticky note of items needed to the title card.
We continue to do this as we read and understand the book. We add title cards and sticky notes to clarify almost everyday. It only took about a week, before students now can initiate the conversation about adding to the wall. Students will then recall, add to, and move information. It is important to show this flexibility as way of understanding more. That our brain does this when we read and we just need to help it organize all the new information better.