The Value of Word Walls

Word walls were something that confounded me upon entering the realm of elementary school teachers; what was the big deal and why did every teacher have one?

So I did some research and put up a, quite frankly, mediocre wall at best. It was a large sheet of paper on which we  could add words to.

Unfortunately, I found it to be rather useless. We hardly ever added words (my own fault) and as the class moved on with curriculum and units we began running out of space and the words often became irrelevant.

So I revamped the entire thing.

I cleared one of my whiteboards entirely and created an interactive and adjustable word wall.

Our Grade 4 Word Wall!
Our Grade 4 Word Wall!

The size and simplicity makes it easier for my students (who all have learning disabilities) to view words and know what they are and mean.

Additionally, I am able to erase words to add new ones once all or the majority of my class has mastered them or when we change units.

To gather words for our board and to make my board work best for my kids, I use three different strategies:

  1. When new vocabulary is introduced in any subject, we add it to the board. This helps the board become, not just a Language Arts tool, but a great source of information for Social Studies, Math, Science, etc.
  2. I test my kids four times a year using Dolch Sight Words and calculate which words they’re having the most difficulty with. Once a week we discuss one or two words and I’ll add them to the board. The next time they’re tested on the word (which is either then next time they’re tested on the word lists or occasionally on a spelling quiz), if they’ve mastered it, I remove the words and add new ones.
  3. Finally, to help the kids feel more invested in the board, about once a month I will have them give me words they have difficulty with. I will either get them to think, pair, share, or I will give them a topic (for example, In Spring I might have them give me words they often need to spell regarding the season that they have trouble with).

I’ve found that these changes I’ve made have turned my word wall into a hugely valuable tool in my classroom rather than simply a random thing all elementary teachers seem to have, so why not me too? I recommend involving students as much as possible so that they value the wall for the aid that it is, feel involved in it, and feel like valuable contributors to the class.

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