When I first started teaching I don’t think I truly appreciated how important word walls would become. I had always intended to work with older students – thus those first couple of years were a bit of a shock.
Here is what I have learned over the years about setting up and maintaining a working word wall…
- DON’T use cute lettering for the header cards.
Yes, look at my pretty first word wall above and you’ll see the beautiful letters by Phillip Martin. They look awesome…until you realise that there are students still mixing their b and d and others who only write in capitals. I ditched my much love animals for a plain header set. Yes, it looks boring but it made a larger difference to assisting students.
- DON’T put the word wall where the students can not reach.
Sounds basic but I have seen many word walls that just sit on the wall and look pretty. It needs to be functional and usable. Make sure that the students can reach the cards easily to take them off AND to put them back on.
- DO put a line on the ground.
Yes, that is material tape with Velcro sewn underneath and it is on the floor. It kept the students away from the board when we were on the floor as well as providing walking space when we conducted activities.
- DO prepare some words in advance.
There are a lot of benefits to creating a word wall on the day with the students – but time doesn’t always permit this and if not laminated the cards turn to mush in less than a month which is not always long enough for some in the class. I premade 200 common sight word cards, plus a set showing blends and vowels. I have a pencilcase full of blank cards (with two small pieces of Velcro on the back) that can be written on with whiteboard markers and added.
- DO create a name wall.
I thought it was so silly when I read about it in a book – I thought it would be too babyish – no it is not. It saves so much time for the kids to be able to see how to spell each others’ names and put a face (I always had a photo on them) with the name. I do it every year no matter what grade I have in junior or primary school.
- DO use the words for other purposes.
Word types was something I hated as a students so each day we did the Alphabet Walk (sounds and letter names) and then I chose three students to move the stickers (in the picture they are laminated bugs as that was our science focus) next to three words. We would look at the meaning, spelling and syllables.
Word Types in Action!
Then, we would then look at a word type – I usually kept them the same for about two weeks. I used posters from SparkleBox which are free from their website – Click Here. I purchased a cheap “wand” to use as a pointer and placed some Velcro on it to hold it in place on the wall. I cut up some black rectangles, laminated and then stuck some fancy letter stickers on for each word type (C – Conjunction, V – Verb, PN – Proper Noun, A – Adjective, etc.). I would chose students to place the C (or whatever letter/word type we were doing) next to a conjunction. The class would then show if they agreed (hands on heads) or disagreed (hands on shoulders). Made for great discussion!