Saturday, July 25, 2015

Word Wall Must Haves

I LOVE word walls! Love 'em more than anything. It's such a powerful teaching tool and when I first started teaching 6th grade I felt like the were totally TABOO (like--they were ONLY for younger grades and babyish). My first year that I taught I had zero-zilch-nada word walls and it really cramped my teaching style and I felt like my students were missing out on a great learning resource. My second year of teaching I did it--I made a word wall as visually awesome and really talked it up.  I started the first month of school with science word wall and soon into the school I made a math word wall and then I created a Parts of Speech Word Wall that incorporated our spelling and vocabulary terms. It all evolved and come together so perfectly. And the best part--my students use them.

They are so well used and helped in so many areas--specifically FLUENCY. My students no longer raise a furrowed eyebrows (please tell me you know that face:) when I use the world "quantity" in math...and that was a major step of progress. Not only do I use the term all of the time but they also see it and write it. In science the terms from unit to unit are not brushed aside and it makes for perfect review. And my Parts of Speech Word Wall. Oh how it makes a difference. Books are scoured to find their spelling words in the text so they could enter their name, word, and books into a drawing for a prize after our spelling tests on Fridays. See? I love my word walls and most important, my students utilize them.

Here are some tips and tricks for building your very own word wall and implementing it into your classroom.

1. Every students must be able to see it.
In order for students to be able to use the word wall they have to be able to see it. Now, word walls can take up a considerable amount of space...but think outside of the box. I turned by cabinets into my spelling and vocabulary word wall and refreshed it at the beginning of each term. My students use it to refer to key words and who doesn't love finding cool new words in books?

2. Organize your words.
Whether alphabetically or categorically keep things organized. Color coding, font matching, paper backing words so they all coordinate does make a difference. My science word wall is categorized by subject so all of the space terms are together, microorganisms have a section, heat, light, and sound are all put together as well. So not only can your students see it but they can easily find the words they are looking for because of the organization.  

3. Use it or lose it.

It is so important to use your word wall during instruction or else students won't use it and then the teaching power of word walls is lost. When students ask questions, refer them to the word wall. MODEL (model, model, model) how you expect them to use it. Pretend you can't remember how to spell something and use the word wall. Make a spelling error and see if your students notice and direct you to the word wall. Make it relevant, make it useful, and make your word wall important (don't let it lose it's teaching power!). 

4. Let your students build the word wall.

I love the idea in students taking part in the word wall. My word wall terms are pre-made but I have my students organize them and maintain the word walls. I read on some awesome blog (I can't find it) that the teacher lets students fill out cards and put them on the word wall and I love that! Once they have a sense of ownership that ups the ante on how they use it.

Also Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your word wall. It's okay to have a lot of blank space. I can guarantee that your word wall will be built a lot faster than Rome. It takes time and work but at the end of the year it is such a visual representation of everything that you have learned! Huzzah! 

5. Don't be afraid to start mid year!

If you are reading this and it's not the beginning of the year don't be afraid to implement your word wall. It takes time to set up the procedures and expectations of a word wall--but it takes time at the beginning of the year too. I was in the same boat and it ended up being such a great addition to my classroom. 


  1. I love you ideas of how to incorporate a word wall! I teach third grade language arts/social studies and have always struggled with how to incorporate one effectively. The past two years it has just been a bulletin board that has taken up space. I would love to hear more about how you organize your word wall for language arts! Do you have any pictures of your word walls? Thanks in advance!


    1. Hi! Oh I just love that you commented! The struggle is real with word walls. I actually use the cabinets in my classroom. My Language Arts word wall is a "Part of Speech" Word Wall. For some reason kiddos really struggle with parts of speech and then throwing in grammar and rules just really throws them for a loop. Each cabinet is labelled with a part of speech (noun, adj, verb, etc). I have the words typed up (each week is a different color or font) and laminated and I keep them on my white board for the week (I can refer to them all week which is awesome!), take them down for the test, and to check our spelling words we put them up under the correct part of speech. Each term/end of grading period this word wall gets refreshed and the slate is clean.

      My kiddos use the wall as they read and when they find a word on the word wall they write down the word, the book, and the page and put it in a raffle jar for a prize. We draw the prizes (usually 3...and there are usually over 50 entries...easily!) after their spelling tests on Friday's! My 6th grader's LOVE this...I'm sure your students would too. Anything for a prize right?!

      Have you thought of having students build their own word wall in a folder or spiral (I do this with science)? Your kiddos would totally rock that! AND it would be reference tool that you could build together as a class and they would have their own as well. I just posted reference pages--for personal word walls (you might want more room for your kiddos) but it's an idea. I've found this really really helps words stick!

      Let me search through my pictures and see if I have one of my word wall completed. Most of my pictures do have students in them so one solely of my word wall is hard to find! But I should grab a picture of it!

      I am super long-winded and this is a lot! I hope it helps! And email me @ anytime!

  2. Thank you SO much for your help and ideas!! I love how you have organized your word wall into the different parts of speech- so much more meaningful then putting them in ABC order. Can't wait for the word wall to be beneficial for my students this year! yay!


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