Chances are you’ve heard of, and may even have, a word wall! These common teaching tools can help students become familiar with words and develop a stronger vocabulary. But for primary students, word walls miss a key feature we want our students to master: spelling patterns and sounds. That’s why I recommend using a French sound wall in the classroom instead.
What is a Sound Wall?
A sound wall is similar to a word wall. It showcases newly learned vocabulary you want students to be familiar with. However, on a word wall, you arrange the words according to the alphabet. On a sound wall, words are arranged by sound.
For instance, words that contain the same sound (but have different spellings) would be grouped together. Think bateau and photo. By arranging words by sound, students get familiar with spelling patterns and French sounds.
Why Use a Sound Wall in Your Classroom?
As I mentioned, knowing spelling patterns and sounds is better for long-term retention. Research shows that explicit phonics instruction is an integral part of reading and writing success.
French is a very sound-based language, with many basic words using compound sounds. In fact, most vowels are compound sounds! It’s hard for students to be successful in reading, writing, speaking, and even listening without an understanding of these sounds and their graphemes.
How to Set Up a Sound Wall in Your Classroom
Now that we’ve talked about why you have a sound wall in your classroom, let’s get into how to set one up! I have a ready-made French sound wall resource, so I will talk through how I created it and set it up.
Step 1: Consonant Board
First, you want to create a consonant board. On the board, create five different headings for each specific sound: les consonnes plosives, nasales, fricatives, approximantes, and aspirés. Then, underneath each heading, you will add words that match the sound. In the French sound board resource, I provide the headings, along with real images of mouths to mimic the sounds,
Here is what each type of consonant means:
|Les consonnes plosives||“Explosive” sound – sound cannot be carried on, it’s caused by a block somewhere in the mouth (like /p/)|
|Les consonnes nasales||Nose is used to create the sound. These sounds cannot be made without air passing through your nose (like /m/)|
|Les consonnes fricatives||Sound is created using friction with some part of your mouth (like /f/)|
|Les consonnes approximantes||Partial closure of the mouth using the tongue (like /l/)|
|Les consonnes aspirés||Doesn’t make a sound, but it changes the way that the word is pronounced (like /h/ in hibou). Done through the throat|
Step 2: Vowel Board
Compared to English, French has a lot of vowels, so I wanted to approach the vowel board in a different way. I sectioned off the board by the type of vowel, including combined sounds (like /oir/ in miroir). I like this approach because it clearly lays out the different spelling patterns that can go with one sound (which makes it a great reference guide for students and gets them familiar with various patterns).
Here are the vowel categories I use on my vowel board:
|Les voyelles orales||All vowel sounds in French that are not nasal or a semi-vowel (like /a/)|
|Les voyelles nasales||Nose is used to create the sound (like /on/)|
|Les semi-voyelles||have some qualities of a vowel and some of a consonant. These sounds are not quite a vowel but not quite a consonant either (like /w/). Phonetically, it’s similar to a vowel, but it acts like a consonant|
|Les sons combinés||Made up of more than one phoneme. May be 2 vowels (like /ion/), or a vowel and a consonant together (like /eur/)|
Step 3: Use it!
Now that you have a sound board set up, it’s time to use it! I recommend posting the French sound wall at the start of the year, even if students haven’t explicitly been taught the sound or pattern yet. I like printing both the colour version and the black & white version. I start with the black & white cards, and I switch them over to the colour cards once I’ve explicitly taught it.
This sound wall in your classroom can be used year-round for a multitude of purposes. Students can refer to it during writing lessons, whole group and small group phonics lessons, explicit phonics instruction, and more. The more you use it – the more students will refer to it as a guide.
I have a ready-made French sound wall that makes incorporating a sound wall into your classroom a breeze. This resource includes 47 french sound posters, student referential pages, 91 word cards, bulletin board headers and titles, and the International Phonetic Alphabet charts.
Everything you need to simply and easily create a sound wall in your classroom is here!
Want to read more about French phonics? Check out my blog for other phonics related posts!