Word walls are a great way to introduce vocabulary and provide visual supports for spelling and writing, but don’t let the learning stop there! Here are 5 different ways to use word walls that lead to stronger reading and language skills.
Word walls can be useful, but they also take up a good amount of real estate in our classrooms. If materials are going to take up that kind of space, then I believe we should be able to use them in lots of different ways. Here are some ideas to get you started.
feature, function and class
Word walls are a great place to work on feature, function and class with your students in a fun and engaging way. We make the practice into a guessing game. For example, if the word wall had the cards from our grocery store unit, I might ask students to find 3 objects that have handles.
Here are some examples of questions and units we use:
- Christmas word wall: “I’m thinking of something that hangs on a door in December as a decoration. Can you find it?” By finding the wreath word wall card, the student would demonstrate the function of a wreath.
- Fire Safety word wall: “Which three are safety tools?” Students who found mask, helmet and fire extinguisher, would demonstrate they understand that category.
- Transportation word wall: “Can you point to the ones that have doors and wheels?” By pointing to the bus, taxi and truck and not the bike and boat, the student would be demonstrating he or she understand those features.
compare and contrast
Talking about how items are similar and different can be very challenging for students. By using the word wall to practice this skill, you are helping students build a deeper understanding of words and concepts. For example, in the picture below, we compared the cart and basket from the grocery store unit to help students understand when and why you would choose to use them. Not only will this help students better grasp what they are, but it will also help them make good choices when they’re out in the community.
Compare and contrast activities are a great time to introduce the Venn diagram to students. It’s on many standardized assessments, so having lots of opportunities to work with it will help them demonstrate their skills on tests.
Sorting by category
Use the word cards to sort into different categories. For example, we used the word wall cards in the summer unit to sort the words associated with the beach and the pool. Students demonstrated a solid understanding of these places when they sorted the sand castle and boat into the beach pile and the pool noodle and float into the pool pile. Once students are able to do that, we add in words that could be used in both places (sunscreen, sunglasses, cooler, etc.) with the Venn diagram. Watch the video below on how I sort the word wall cards and use the materials in different ways.
Not only do word walls make good visual supports for spelling and writing, but they can be used for different writing activities. Since I use our word wall in so many different ways, I use ticky tack to hang my word wall cards. I like to be able to take them down when we need to. I take them down for both of these writing tasks:
- Alphabetize: I take down random words and mix them up. I then give the cards to the students and have them alphabetize the cards. Depending on the your student, you may be able to have the student go right to writing them in order. If not, have students move the word wall cards around to put them in order. This is also a great strategy for students who get really frustrated if they make a mistake when writing.
- Create a funny story: You could just give students a few word wall cards and ask them to write a story using those words, but I found it’s much more fun and engaging if you tell them to write a funny ( or scary, crazy, etc.) one. Bonus points if the student then reads the story to the class!
I hope this has helped you brainstorm different ways to use the word wall words in your classroom. In my program, we change our themes every 2 to 3 weeks so the thematic words on our word wall also change. Read more about the theme units we use by clicking the links below.