Word Walls: Beyond Spelling Words

Are your students still struggling with some of those spelling words from weeks ago? Are you interested in ways to introduce new vocabulary or encourage more “colorful” writing? With a little bit of planning beforehand, a word wall is not only a great use of bulletin board space, but an excellent learning tool for your students. According to T2T contributor, Sally Olson, “A word wall is a systematically organized collection of words displayed in large letters on a wall or other large display place in the classroom.” There really are no set “rules” for word walls and you will find plenty of variations on the idea. Below, contributors to our T2T mailing list share some of their ideas and opinions. Be sure to check out Sally Olson’s contribution as well, which includes 24 activities for word walls and a word list.

Several teachers in my grade level have put up word walls above their alphabet, and have a large piece of construction paper with Aa, Bb, etc at the top of each. They put words that begin with that letter on the paper, so it’s easy for kids to find the words they need! -SwtTeacher

I do a lot of activities with my word wall and my students use it many different ways. One activity is the students clap out the letters in the words. Another is the students solve the mystery word of the week, I write a clue every day and fill a letter in the blank until the word is discovered. My students use it to read around the room. The word wall serves as a great reference for my writer’s workshop. The students are responsible to write the words correctly that are on my word wall. I use Harris-Jacobs Word List and I add to it every week. -Mugsyboo

I create a word wall for “Other words for ‘Said'” i.e. declared, exclaimed, whispered, etc. We added as we came across them in our reading, editing & revising phase of our writing. It really helped enhance the students’ writing. -BevM

All of the workshops and classes I’ve taken that included the word wall specifically preached to never use vocabulary words. The purpose of the word wall is to help children learn to spell high frequency words and vocabulary words should be done in the reading or content areas. They did stress that those words were important and to hang them in another place in the room, just not on the word wall. -teachervo

We did word walls in my methods class last year. You can have the kids pick words out of a text you are reading, having them make the word cards, categorizing them some way-nouns, adjectives, verbs etc…, put them under letters of the alphabet or use words from a thematic unit (I did this). Nice way to work on vocab quickly daily. The more print and words up around them the better for when they are writing!!! I did it and I really loved it, I could say look up at the word wall to see if you can find the word you are looking for. -Jocelyn

Maybe you don’t have a bulletin board, or enough space to create a word wall. You can accomplish the same affect by hanging a large poster, possibly on the back of a classroom door on the chalkboard if you’re pressed for space. A few more suggestions from our readers are a little more high-tech:

One thing I do is create slide shows on ClarisWorks. I have them running in the morning. During the first part of learning multiplication, I have “counting by…” and whatever number we are working on. After we have “learned” the facts, I run slide shows of the multiplication facts with answers. I have spelling unit words also on slide shows and have them running the morning before the test. -Paula

Several years ago a colleague mentioned he had purchased, at minimum cost, a programmable sign that he hung in his classroom. Every day for a week (or however long), the spelling words (reading words, vocabulary words) would scroll/flash across the screen, somewhat like subliminal advertising. In college, I had a professor who did this using Powerpoint which was hooked up to a TV. Any announcements or reminders or assignments were on this constantly-changing screen. It drew everyone’s attention the moment they walked into the classroom. -SwtTeacher

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