The Ultimate Word Wall with ThingLink & Padlet

I am fortunate to be working with an amazing group of educators this summer for the ThingLink Teacher Challenge. This week’s challenge to design an activity to  help students Dig Deeper Into Vocabulary, a topic I am very passionate about.

I also love Word Walls and have been using them for as long as I can remember. While I was once frustrated by trying to keep taped images up on a physical wall, I now find the process to be streamlined and slick with the help of one of my favorite tools, Padlet

Benefits of Padlet at a Glance

  • Padlet is a free, flexible and user friendly tool that is available online, 24/7
  • Users can create account and design Padlets for a variety of purposes for teaching and learning. 
  • Students can contribute to Padlets without an email address, just tap to add an image.
  • Padlet works well on a computer and also from the web browser on an iPad. 
  • There’s no tape or physical space limitations with these types of word walls.
  • Padlet is capable is displaying text, images and video.
  • Padlet can be embedded into a blog, wiki or website.
  • Padlet supports ThingLink interactive images!

Using Padlet to Create The Ultimate Word Wall of Interactive Images

As the interactive images for the challenge started rolling in, I had the idea to build a Word Wall of vocabulary activities. The word wall is embedded below, but to get a better view you might want to visit the full wall on the Padlet site. 
Click on any image to preview and explore any interactive vocabulary image created by teachers from all over the world. If you want to explore the full version of an image, click the Share icon on the ThingLink image to grab the link. If you want to embed the image into your own space, grab the embed code.

Be sure to check back as many more images are submitted. This wall will grow throughout the summer.


For a better viewing experience go to Padlet to view this wall.

Join Us for the ThingLink Teacher Challenge


ICE Cold Mini Conference

I had a wondrful time at the ICE COLD Spring Mini-Conference this morning despite the April snow and downright blustery day. The event was packed, the information was interesting and relevant, and there was a lot of excitement everywhere.

Kudos to the organizers of this well organized and fun annual event!. $5.00 was quite a bargain!

Here are a couple of resources from this fun-filled morning of learning:

Unpacking the Common Core: Digital Tools to Support the Academic Vocabulary Shift
This is the session I presented:

Literacy and the Common Core Standards

You will find the LiveBinder created by Dawn Sayer to be a very useful resource. I really enjoyed listening to Dawn’s innovative teaching ideas and learning the ways she uses some of the same tools in efficient and effective ways. Good stuff here!

Webinar: Marzano’s 6 Steps to Effective Vocabulary Instruction

Monday, April 08, 2013 @ 5:00 PM EDT

Academic vocabulary is one of the greatest predictors of student success across all areas of the curriculum. Dr. Robert Marzano has developed a successful six-step process for teaching vocabulary to improve instruction and boost the academic performance of all students. Join me and Simple K12 as we explore a variety of digital tools, tips, and strategies to support Dr, Marzano’s method of vocabulary development to help students develop transferable word knowledge.

Digital Tools for Differentiating Vocabulary: K12Online

If you’re looking for innovative ways to use free and user friendly digital tools to help students acquire vocabulary, please check out my session, Digital Tools for Differentiating Vocabulary Instruction at the K12OnlineConference. While you’re there you are sure to discover more terrific 20 minute sessions, available for viewing at your convenience.


Teaching vocabulary today? Get ideas to “Kick it Up a Notch” at  conference.      innovate

Common Core Connections: Unpacking Academic Vocabulary

Are you wondering where to begin to adopt the Common Core Vocabulary Standards? While there are many specific vocabulary standards clearly listed in the K-12 Language strand, it’s helpful and important to look at Academic Vocabulary from the big picture view known as Shift 6. Let’s unpack it.

Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary
Overview: Three Tiers of Vocabulary
  • Tier 1:
    Words acquired through every day speech, usually learned in the early grades
  • Tier 2:
    Academic words that appear across all types of text. These are often precise words that are used by the author in place of common words. (i.e. gallop instead of run). They change meaning with use.
  • Tier 3:
    Domain specific words” that are specifically tied to content. (i.e. Constitution, lava) These are typically the types of vocabulary words that are included in glossaries, highlighted in textbooks and address by teachers. They are considered difficult words important to understanding content.

The Common Core suggests that it’s important to target specific instruction on Tier 2 and and Tier 3 vocabulary words to help students develop deep understanding that cannot be acquired through independent reading. Since Tier 3 words are typically targeted in content specific instruction, it’s particularly important and challenging to identify and target Tier 2 words, since they appear across all disciplines. The task at hand, then, appears to be identifying the Tier 2 words and finding effective instructional strategies to support acquisition of those words.

Understanding: Watch a Video by EngageNY

It’s clear that identifying the Tier 2 Vocabulary words in a passage can be both challenging and time-consuming for teachers. While it is important for the teacher to be the decision-makers about identifying Tier 2 Vocabulary, and it’s understood that a digital tool is no substitute for human decision-making, it’s helpful to have a tool to jump start the process and provide a starting point. Wordle, a simple word cloud generator can be a handy tool for this task.

Digital Tools to Help Identify Tier 2 Words


Included in the collection of Common Core resources from EngageNY is a high school level exemplor lesson that devotes three days of instruction to carefully examining and interacting with the first three paragraphs of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The focus of vocabulary instruction in this lesson centers around one important word, dedicated. I decided to pop the of text of The Gettysburg Address  into Wordle to see if the tool would  identify this important Tier 2 word and the results were consistent with the findings of EngageNY. The word dedicated jumped off the page along with some other significant words. 

First 3 Paragraphs of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

The Find Tool
Taking this one step further, I returned to the original text and used the Find Tool (control + f) to find occurances of the word, dedicated. This was helpful for jump starting the process of examining the important word and how it is used in context.

Use the Find Tool to Identify Tier 2 Vocabulary in Context

I performed similar experiments on other significant documents, including Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. The tool does appear to be helpful as a starting point for identifying significant words, but again, it is no substitute for human decision-making.

Digital Tools for Helping Students Construct Knowledge about Tier 2 and Tier 3 Words

If you are looking for digital tools to help students build deep meaning of vocabulary words, there are quite a few that are well-suited for the task.  I have created a MentorMob playlist of tools to guide the journey and exploration through some previous blog posts with more information about the tools.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

SlideRocket Sample: Cool Tools for Vocabulary

As someone who creates and shares presentations frequently, I’m excited to add SlideRocket to my tech toolkit of cloud-based presentation tools. It’s slick, collaborative and available for free with a Gmail or Google Apps for Educators account. A refreshing change from Google Presentation, SlideRocket is feature-rich and fast. Here are a few of my favorite features:

  • Vivid themes
  • A sophisticated Inspector Panel which includes opacity and pinpoint rotation of images, text and videos
  • Access to stock photography or options to upload your own images
  • Embedded video
  • Fun plugins which include a real-time Twitter feed.
If you decide to try this tool yourself, remember to be diligent about saving. I did experience some problems with this, perhaps because I’ve gotten spoiled by not having to save a Google Presentation, or perhaps because I kept getting logged off due to inactivity, but it is something to note:
I’m a newbie with this tool, but I’m sharing a quick presentation I put together to guide a recent webinar, Cool Tools for Vocabulary. 
Click the  X  to view full screen

Build Vocabulary Cards with Google Presentation

There is a wealth of research to suggest that vocabulary knowledge is the single best predictor of student academic achievement across all curriculum areas. Experts agree that vocabulary development is an attainable goal. If given the opportunity to receive effective vocabulary instruction, most students can acquire vocabulary at rates that will improve their comprehension and also their chances for success in school. Technology is an effective and engaging tool that can be used to improe vocabulary acquisition for all learners and engage them in the learning process. Google Presentation offers some features that make it an attractive tool for a lesson in which students work collaboratively to construct knowledge about vocabulary by creating vocabulary cards.

Lesson: Use Google Presentation to Build Vocabulary Cards
In this activity students use the template found at the bottom of this post to guide the learning. The template includes formatting which allows students to focus on content rather than  technology. An added bonus of this template is that it includes a Help Page with links to resources and video tutorials about how to complete certain tasks when using Google Presentation.
Help Page with links to tutorials

Students work in groups of three.  Each group works on a copy of the template that has been shared with members of the group. Each student within the group has a job to do.

Jobs: Click on the images to jump to a page with tutorials and resources

Finds and inserts a video to illustrate the term using the handy feature that lets users preview and insert YouTube videos without leaving the presentation.

Find a copyright-friendly image or use the drawing tools available to draw directly an illustration of the term directly on the slide.

Use dictionary tools to compose a definition.

Create a Slide: Each student contributes to the slide, using the Help Button, if needed.
sample student card with jobs

sample student card completed

Create a Quiz Card:

After students create the vocabulary card, they use the animations feature available in  Google Presentation to turn their cards into a Quiz Card for review and practice when studying the terms

Vocabulary Card Template:

Get Template:
You must be logged in to a Gmail account to copy and use this template.

Tag Galaxy

Tag Galaxy is a Cool Tool to visually explore word relationships. Just type in a term and watch a 3D orbiting galaxy of words and their associations evolve  Click on any word to move it to the center of the galaxy, then click on it again and watch the globe populate with tagged images from Flickr.

 Watch Demo

Uses in the Classroom:

  • Project Tag Galaxy on a wall to help students visualize vocabulary words, ideas and concepts.
  • Display Tag Galaxy on an interactive white board and let students touch the globe and explore. 
  •  Use the photos to prompt creative writing.
  •  Engage students in a guided visual search.
  • Start a discussion about word relationships