The Focus Wall: Questions and Answers

Today I would like to take some time to answer a few questions that have come up about my Focus Wall that I have used in Kindergarten, first grade, and TK (Transitional Kindergarten, which is a lot like Pre-K!) I hope this helps give you a little more information on how I use my focus wall, and why I would never consider teaching without one.

Focus Wall Questions and Answers

Question:  What exactly is a Focus Wall?  Define Focus Wall.

Answer:  A Focus Wall is a bulletin board in your room that you change weekly to display everything you are working on (or focusing on) that week.  It helps the teacher remember to focus on those items each day, and it serves as a visual reminder for the students of the Letter of the Week, Number of the Week, Shape of the Week, new sight words that are presented, etc.

This is an example of my free Kindergarten Pacing Guide.  There is also an editable one.

Question: How do you know what to put on it?

Answer: I follow my weekly Pacing Guide (usually!)  Right now, I am on my TK Pacing Guide, week two! However, I'm a little bit ahead of it this year, since I usually don't introduce a letter of the week in TK until week four. I allow myself to get ahead of the Pacing Guide, but not get behind- usually!

You can find free downloadable copies of all of my Pacing Guides for TK, Kindergarten, first, and second grade here on our Free Downloads page.  Just scroll all the way to the bottom and look for the section marked HeidiSongs Program User Guides.

Question: Isn't a Focus Wall there just for the benefit of the principal or administration?

Answer: No, not at all! In my room, I use the Focus Wall every day to teach my class the letter, number, shape, and sight words we are working on weekly. Since I tend to forget things when I'm under stress, I prefer to have all of the things I need to go over with them right there on the board behind me. First, I do the calendar, and then I go over everything on the Focus Wall, from left to right. That way, I don't forget to review a single thing. After that, we sing all of the songs related to the items on the Focus Wall. It's a great, active, positive way to start each day! Plus, whatever you do daily tends to STICK.

Question: The photo of your Focus Wall that you posted last spring was so busy! Why did you post so much?

Answer: The reason that there was so much on it was because I had some VERY high students and some VERY low ones! In my TK class of 22, I had four students who were still working on the alphabet in April, and about 12 that were already starting to read! In addition, I had one student that was reading on a THIRD GRADE LEVEL! Because of that, I was trying to include a lot each day as I differentiated instruction. My higher kids really needed to begin sounding out words, Also, I was reviewing for testing on patterning and sorting; hence the addition of that section. On top of that, due to the presence of two children with special needs, I was REQUIRED to include a visual schedule up there on my board. So that made it even busier!

However, as I went through the Focus Wall each morning, I guided my students attention to the section I wanted them to focus on.  Believe it or not, not a single child ever said, "It's so busy/cluttered!  I can't focus!"  And when I reviewed the letters, I made sure I had the attention of the group of kids that really needed it, since I seated them in the front row.  (I didn't start that section until I was sure I had their eyes right on it.)

Spring Focus Wall- We don't normally have the Visual Schedule on it, nor the sorting and patterning.  I included them because we were reviewing for second trimester tests.  All together, it makes it too busy indeed- but I took great care to point and call attention to the section we were reviewing as we came to it each day.

Question: Don't the kids get restless as you go through all of that information each morning?

Answer: They probably would, but I do it all in a very active way, especially now with the new Focus Wall packets that I've recently developed. The kids stand up and sing/chant the letter or number formation poems, and do the Alphabet Action, and all kinds of things like that! I'll review my routine for each Focus Wall below.

And here is one of my number writing songs from my Number Jumble collection! Goes right along with the writing rhyme on my Number of the Week set!

Number of the Day or Week Focus Wall for the Number 2

Question: Where did you get that purple pocket chart that your Number of the Week Focus Wall is on?

Answer: I got that purple one on Amazon, right here!  The other half size ones also came from Amazon right here.

Kindergarten Focus Wall, Week 2:  Letter A, Number 2, Square

Question: I see that each subject is mounted with magnets.  Do you remove each subject and place it on an easel or other board as you use it?

Answer: No, I leave the pocket charts where they are and use a pointer to point to them. In my opinion, the Focus Wall needs to be right at the front of the room, in direct view of where the kids sit. So, everything is mounted with magnets because the magnetic white board was at the front of the room, right where the projector was pointed. I had them put a pull down screen above the whiteboard so that I could also use the whiteboard for other things, and not just as a screen to project upon. (At my present school, teachers usually just erase what they are doing and then use the whiteboard as a projection screen.) At my previous school, I had a bulletin board at the front of the room, and a pull down screen above it. I used to use push pins to put my pocket charts onto the bulletin board and put the cards on that. So the magnets are my solution to not having a bulletin board at the front of the room.

Visual Schedule for Kindergarten

Question: Where did you get your Visual Schedule?

Answer: I created it because I couldn't find one that would work for me. I have not put it up for sale, though. If enough people tell me that they would like a copy, I will do that! I'll just need to blur out a few faces, or put some happy face emojis in front of them, because instead of looking for photos, I just took pictures of my kids and put them into a schedule that suited me.

Shape of the Week Focus Wall:  Square

Shape of the Week Focus Wall Chart with "old" Square Song.

Question: Did you change the words to your circle and square songs on your Shape of the Week chart?

Answer: Not exactly!  I included two sets of lyrics to the circle and the square song.  One set includes the original lyrics.  The second set includes lyrics that also fit the music, but are more mathematically correct.  So for example, our song says, "A circle is like the sun, a circle is like the moon, A circle is like the ball I bounce every afternoon.  Boom!"

Unfortunately, our published lyrics are not exactly mathematically correct.  A circle is like a PICTURE of a sun, a PICTURE of a moon, and a PICTURE of a ball.  Otherwise, these things are actually spheres.  So, since there have been quite a few teachers that have been so kind as to correct me over the years, I decided to include some corrected lyrics, just for them!  Someday, we will get around to actually fixing the music and video, too!

The newer lyrics say, "A circle is like a clock.  A circle is like a plate.  A circle is like a cookie that tastes really great.  Yum!"  So, you can take your pick!  The newer lyrics for the square are:  "A square is a book, a present to read.  A square is a book, happy birthday to me!"

Letter of the Week Focus Wall:  Letter B

Question: Where did those colorful letters come from on the Letter of the Week Chart?

Answer:  I just created them, and will be adding them to the file ASAP!  Give us just a little time, and we will get the file revised and an email sent out to all who purchased it.  A link will be included so that you can download the newer, revised file.  I think I will also print the two letters at the top of the chart on some beautifully colored paper to make them POP a bit more!

Any more questions? Send them my way, and have a wonderful school year!

- Heidi :)

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