Word Splashes are used in a variety of ways including Pre-Instruction to increase students’ prior knowledge, Distributed Practice to reinforce memory and Incremental Development to deepen and broaden students’ understanding of a concept. Visual learners, in particular, respond well to Word Splashes.
Word Splashes are often used:
- Starting a week or more before a unit begins to familiarize students with the important, upcoming vocabulary/concepts.
- Just before starting a unit to foster conversations regarding connections between concepts and possible meanings.
- During a unit’s main instruction to generate meaningful conversations and for you to quickly assess how “the pieces are coming together” for your students.
- After a unit to provide a means for a quick review or to build bridges to new content.
- After a unit to generate deep conversations regarding the content by having students make and defend a “new” Word Splash for the topic.
Word Splashes are visual teaching tools that the teacher creates and uses in multiple ways and at multiple times for instruction. They are typically used for pre and post instruction to promote student processing of the content that ranges from superficial pre-instruction to in-depth conversations regarding the focus of the Word Splash.
- Overhead transparency, chart paper or PowerPoint presentation.
- Pens and markers with which to draw and write.
Creating a Word Splash
- Obtain the content information for a future unit. This information may be in the textbook, the internet or your previous notes and lesson plans if you have taught that unit before.
- Study the content from the future unit and choose 7 – 15 of the most important concepts and/or vocabulary terms the students would benefit from being familiar with before starting the unit.
- Categorize the terms in ways you want your students to view the relationships.
- Choose appropriate colors, fonts, point sizes, orientations and locations for each category of terms. Each category of terms should be connected through color, font, size and/or orientation, with a few categories on each Word Splash. Colors should be dark and easy to see. Black, blue, green, purple, brown and maroon are effective choices. Red can work but in limited quantities and in larger point sizes. Avoid yellow and orange. Also, if the concepts are naturally connected to certain colors, make sure to maintain those natural connections, for example, use blues with sky or greens with most vegetation.
- Fonts should be easy to read. Avoid the temptation to use fonts that are too “fun” or “fancy” if they are difficult to read from a distance.
- Point sizes should be large enough for all students to be able to read the concepts from anywhere in the classroom.
- Create a rough draft of what you want the Word Splash to look like.
- Each Word Splash should have a title which is typically best placed on the top or in the middle of the Word Splash. Make sure to visually differentiate the title from the rest of the terms.
- The color, font, point size, orientation and placement of each term on the Word Splash can be an important and an effective way for students to understand the relationships between the important concepts.
- Create the final version of your Word Splash. Word Splashes can be created on a variety of media. Overhead transparencies, large sheets of chart paper, poster board, documents created on a computer to be shown via projector and PowerPoint images can all be effective. Make Word Splashes durable so you can use each one several times each year for pre and post instruction.
Using a Word Splash for Sprinkles and Showers (Pre-Instruction)
Keep in mind that Sprinkles only last 30 seconds to a minute and Showers generally last two to three minutes. At times, Showers can last up to 5 to 10 minutes, but no more than that.
- Start by showing the title of the Word Splash to the students so they know every term on the Word Splash goes under the umbrella of that particular concept.
- Ask students to repeat certain terms chorally with you. For example, “Alliteration might be a new term to some of us. Please say it three times with me, “Alliteration … alliteration … alliteration … great, thanks.” Then move on to the next part of your lesson. Sprinkles like this one will take only 30 seconds of class time.
- Ask students to first form small groups, and then ask them to discuss if any of the terms on the Word Splash are familiar to them in any way. This creates connections between the students’ prior knowledge and the upcoming content. Note: Sometimes the students respond with answers that are correct in one sense, but not the way we want to use the term. This is not a setback because the students are taking something they are familiar with and relating it to the content topic. As the students report out, respond to them equally by saying, “Thank you” and then move on to the next part of your lesson. A sprinkle like this should only take a few minutes at most.
- Ask the students to form small groups and say the following to the class. “When I say go, use the different fonts, colors, point sizes, orientations and placements on this Word Splash to determine which terms might be categorized together. “Ready…Go.” This allows the students to see which terms are related to each other.
Using a Word Splash for drip, DRIP, DRIP (Distributed Practice and Incremental Development)
There are no set time frames to use Word Splashes as drips. Some drips may only last 2-5 minutes, while others may last 15-20 minutes. This is an ideal time to have Learning Support Stations posted in the room to promote deeper thinking and conversations.
- Ask students to form small groups and explain the relationships between certain terms.
- Ask students to form small groups and rank the significance of the terms on the Word Splash. Remind the students they will be asked to justify their rankings.
- Create an icon or picture that represents a word or group of words.
- Create a short poem, chant, song or rap using certain terms from the Word Splash.
- Compare and contrast certain terms from the Word Splash.
- Create a flow chart using terms from the Word Splash.
- Develop a relevant Circle Map using terms from the Word Splash.
- Construct a pertinent Double Bubble Map using terms from the Word Splash.
- Construct a Tree, Brace, Flow or Multi-Flow Map using terms from the Word Splash.
- Build a Venn Diagram using terms from the Word Splash.
- Develop and defend a slogan for terms from the Word Splash.
- Write a brief summary, explanation or description for either components or combinations of components the Word Splash.
Following the critical attributes while creating a Word Splash will make this strategy effective. These critical attributes include thoughtful and deliberate use of colors, font, point sizes, alignment and orientation to show relationships and meaning. Avoid simply developing a list of terms and putting them on a visual without deliberately using the tools at your disposal to convey connections and meaning.
Most Common Uses
- Building conceptual knowledge
Pre-Instruction of Curriculum Before its Unit Begins
- Sprinkle: Very brief student interaction with content—30 seconds to 2 minutes
- Shower: Brief student interaction with content—2 to 10 minutes
Focused Instruction of Current Content
- Student closure activity
Post Instruction—Distributed Practice and Incremental Development
- Drips: Deeper and/or broader interactions with the content