May 11 2010

Captivating Concepts

Alliterative wall hangings can excite young language learners by providing visual clues to the definitions and common uses of vocabulary words.

Young learners often experiment with language during creative play exercises, but without the benefit of visual clues to the meaning and common uses of words and phrases, they sometimes find language arts lessons hard to grasp. For this project, students apply their technology and creative arts skills to design alliterative-phrase wall (or ceiling) hangings. Collectively, the hangings create a vibrant vocabulary reference for the classroom.

Lesson Description

Be sure to plan ahead before introducing this lesson in class (see sidebar, “Getting Started”). Begin by having students read aloud several alliterative phrases (“curious cat” or “crystal clear,” for example) and discussing, as a class, the concept of alliteration and how to recognize it. Write a word on the board and challenge students to think of creative alliterative phrases that incorporate that word. Have them write their own alliterative phrases, consulting a dictionary or thesaurus if appropriate.

Next, outline the project objective, which is to create artistic wall hangings illustrating their alliterative phrases. Set project parameters that align with your instructive goals. For example, you might ask students to use vocabulary words from a recently studied unit or create alliterations around a particular theme, such as a season (“fall foliage”). You should also specify how many phrases students must illustrate (three to four are suggested).

As a class, study the graphic design software you'll be using. Students should begin by creating a new digital document that measures roughly 4.25 inches high by 8.5 inches wide. Next, they set their background colors or themes and then use the software's text, paint and drawing features to place one of their alliterative phrases on the page. Encourage them to add images to help illustrate the phrase (a mouse or fish bone for “curious cat,” for example), but remind them not to crowd the design with too many elements. Have them repeat the process for each alliterative phrase they've written (one phrase per page).

Print all pages (and laminate if you have the time and equipment). Punch a hole in the top and bottom of each page and thread the pages together using string, wool or plastic wire. Display the hangings from ceilings or bulletin boards, or save them as flash card-like reminders and word banks for reference in future lessons.

Subject Area

This project applies specifically to K–3 English language arts lessons, but it can be adapted for other subject areas (foreign languages, for example) and for students of any age who could benefit from a richer understanding of abstract language concepts.

Curriculum Standards

This lesson addresses the following National Educational Technology Standards for Students, which require students to:

  • use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity and promote creativity;
  • demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations; and
  • apply digital tools to gather, evaluate and use information.


Grading Rubric

Students should be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • How effective was their display? Did they follow the project guidelines (such as using correct vocabulary words)?
  • Did they demonstrate a grasp of the alliteration concept?
  • Did they expand their technology skills?
  • Did they develop their understanding of creative arts abilities?

Getting Started

  • Gather the necessary supplies: at least one computer and printer; stiff or card stock paper for printing student designs; age-appropriate scissors or a hole punch; and wool, string or wire for hanging completed projects.
  • Download or buy graphic design software that's suitable for elementary school students. Many programs are free, and most offer tutorials to get you up to speed quickly.
  • Create some sample wall hangings that can be demonstrated during the main lesson activity. Your examples will help guide students as they create their own work.

Teaching Tips

  • As a variation, create wall hangings with other types of words and phrases common in the English language, such as colloquialisms, idioms or onomatopoetic words.
  • Have students experiment with special effects (distorting or shadowing, for example) and physical embellishments (such as ribbon) while designing their projects.
  • For an expanded lesson, have students explain in writing their alliterative phrases and what inspired them. Ask them to try building longer phrases.
  • For struggling or special-needs students, focus the lesson on the use of nouns, adjectives or high-frequency vocabulary or spelling words.
  • Encourage advanced students to use more complicated phrases or sophisticated design techniques.