How to implement a vocabulary word wall in your classroom

One year I had a juggernaut of a word wall (how’s that for vocabulary?…haha!) Adding a word frequently involved standing on precariously stacked kid-sized furniture or trying to check if a word was straight from an awkward crouch with my head held sideways.  Each day when I read my students a picture book, I introduced a tricky word I knew would be in the book and had a picture to represent it.  After the read aloud we would add the word and the picture to the wall and refer back to it later.  While I think this was beneficial for my students, especially since they were all English language learners, it did get a bit overwhelming, and I’m not sure we interacted with the old words enough.
I find teaching to frequently be about finding creative solutions to problems.  They key to solving the unwieldy word wall problem…..is to create a mini word wall!

 

mini-vocab-word-wall

 

Use 7 to 10 Words at a Time-
Using a smaller number of words has a few different benefits.  It’s easier for students to look for examples of the words in context if they’re focused on a smaller number of them.  Also, displaying the words takes up less space on the wall.  You don’t need a spot for each letter, just post the words like a list.  Students are more likely to remember the words if they get several interactions with a small number of words rather than just skimming over a large number of words.

 

Pull Words from Books or Topics of Study –

New words will be more meaningful to students if they are connected to a book they have read or a science or social studies topic they have been studying.

Interact with the Words Frequently – 
Word walls are of limited value if the words are talked about once, posted, and then never revisited.  Students need several chances to hear, see, and use a new word in order to adopt it into their own vocabulary.  More ideas for interacting with word walls are posted below.

 

Include Pictures – 
Including pictures with vocabulary words will help jog students’ memories.  Reminder pictures can be the difference between students being able to use the word wall independently and students needing help with or just not using the word wall.

 

Change them out Occasionally – 
If a word has been on the word wall for a while and students seem comfortable with it, change it out with a new word.  Little by little your mini word wall will morph throughout the year.

 

So what exactly is this “interacting” with word walls?  Here are some ideas that can be implemented in those little five-minute gaps you find yourself in every so often:
prompts for interacting with a vocabulary word wall
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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.

2 Comments

  1. Hannah, wow! Hope things are going well! How is Colorado going? I just had a second grade team meeting and we
    were discussing hand writing programs. Have you written any?

    • Hi Judy!
      Great to hear from you. Things are great in Colorado. We’ll be moving somewhere new next summer but we don’t know where yet. I have not written a handwriting program but I’m flattered that you checked with me.

      Hannah

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