Building Background with Word Splash

Are you tired of your KWL's and FQR's?  Are you looking for something hands-on, authentic, and great for cooperative skills?  Well, you've come to the right place!  The past two weeks in summer school, the boys and I have been fine-tuning our Word Splash skills.  Come and see what it's all about!

My friend Bethany over at Hunter's Tales from Teaching posted about this strategy a few weeks ago, and I knew I could modify it to suit my ELL's and my technology requirements.  I know I've mentioned that we're going paperless (gasp!) and this summer is my experiential period. 

Super scientific.  I also test the kids to see if they dissolve when dipped in vinegar.  

Kidding! (We are doing that with gummy bears next week...) Anyway!  Bethany has a great explanation about Word Splash, so pop over to her blog and read about it- I'll sum it up below in case your clicking finger is broken.

Photo Credit: Hunter's Tales from Teaching
Based on the content we are going to read or learn about, in our case it was the 4th of July (last week) and the World Cup (this week), the teacher chooses a list of words for the students.  This can be done in groups or as individuals.  *Differentiation-station!*  Then, the students must separate their words into two or three columns.  One column can be the "I don't know" group (I didn't allow that- just call me Viola Swamp) but the students must be able to explain their thinking about each word in each column.  After time is up, each student/group must share their Word Splash and explain their thinking: Why do these words go together? It is amazing to see the lightbulbs and shaking of heads from other students.  Once all groups have gone, students are allowed to move their words around to make new columns.  They can then write a reflection or quickly discuss it.  If you leave these up throughout your unit of study, students can move their words around at all times.  

Here's how I did it:  First, we practiced whole-group with 4th of July words (no pictures, sorry!), which were words they had seen before: firework, parade, independence, America, flag...etc.  I wrote them on index card strips and stuck them with magnets to the board.   I gave each team 3 or 4 minutes to arrange their words, then we stepped back and looked at the other team's.  Each team explained their thinking, and everyone had to speak- even the newcomers.  By the end of the explanations, one kid from each team was ready to move a word around.  That's how I knew it worked.  

For World Cup, I also gave them words they had seen before, but not in the context of learning the history of the sport.  I was able to differentiate each student's words by using a program called One Note, which is what you see each student working on.  Every kid has their own "notebook" in One Note. 

Students can use their finger, the mouse, or a stylus to drag and drop the text boxes.  I thought this was great practice for the PARCC testing coming up- we will be using these touch-screen tablets, and they will have to drag and drop some items, which is not their forte.  They are so cute trying, though!

When time was up, I projected their "notebooks" one by one onto my whiteboard and they got to explain their thinking.  It was interesting to hear their theories on why "Brazil" would go with "Goal" instead of "FIFA" or vice a versa.  I loved being able to create authentic and meaningful (ugh, two ESL textbook words-sorry) conversation in my classroom, which I have found is lacking.  My students, from newcomer to advanced, began to converse about a topic they care about using academic language- be still my heart! Before the last person shared, I asked them if anyone had the exact same answers, and if they thought the last person would have the same as anyone else- that was a great mini-lesson in predicting as well. 

 Experimenting with Word Splash on two easy/high interest topics has paved the way for me to use it during the school year.  I'm thankful to Bethany for sharing it!  

What do you use to build background? Are you going to try Word Splash? If you do, let us Bethany or I know how it goes!


  1. I love the way you did Word Splash with One Note...what a great idea! Fabulous way to integrate technology! Thanks for the shout out, I am so glad Word Splash worked well for you and your kiddos!

  2. Looks like a great activity! I really like how it stimulated so much conversation. That is wonderful. I also love how it got students working with technology. You're right, they are going to need those valuable skills, such as drag and drop. Great lesson!

    Miss Adventures in Running


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