Saturday, November 24, 2012

Word Walls

I devote a fair amount of wall space in my classroom to a word wall. I know that not all teachers do this, and I've read plenty of criticisms in the past about why word walls are impractical (too large and overwhelming to students, not used by students, etc.). But I want to share how I use a word wall in my classroom to counter some of those criticisms.

At the beginning of the year, I put up a large empty word wall.

Each week, on a separate area of our whiteboard, I'll introduce some content-area vocabulary on word wall cards that are color-coded by subject. For some -- like the math vocabulary -- I have QR codes linked to each word so that students can look up the definitions. Others are just the word. We'll do a variety of vocabulary-related activities throughout the week, and then once the words are learned, we'll move them to the big wall. Here's an example of that with some of our math vocabulary words (green & blue background with QR codes) and an International Baccalaureate Learner Profile Trait (green and polka dotted background).

The big wall serves a couple purposes. First, it acts as a record of all of the learning that we've done. It's exciting for my students to see all of the new words and concepts we've learned throughout the year, especially since the board moves from being completely empty to practically bursting at the seams by May. I think that's valuable affirmation of our hard work, and it's worth dedicating the space to me.

The second way that I use the wall, however, is even more important. We use it as a source of constant review throughout the day. During many of our transitions, I'll choose a word, share the definition or a related concept, and the students have to use the wall to figure out what word I'm referring to. I'll have students do this to earn spots in line, transition to get materials, or as a sponge as we wait for other teachers to arrive, etc. As students get better with this routine, I have them start to give the clues to each other so that they're remembering the vocabulary and using it regularly. I hardly ever do test prep throughout the year, and by constantly revisiting these words, I don't think we need to. The word wall is a great visual reminder to me about the words they need to know and the concepts we've talked about.

Don't get me wrong. I think there's a lot of value to having personal word walls and smaller, focused word walls for particular units. But in the best of worlds, I think kids benefit from both.

I've spent a lot of time working on creating durable word cards for my word wall this year, and on Monday and Tuesday, all of my word wall sets at TpT will be 28% off with the code CMT12.

These card sets are normally priced between $3 - $8, and I have them available for the following topics:

Math - All Common Core aligned and embedded with QR codes linked to the definitions:
International Baccalaureate PYP
I'm working on some new sets for additional grade levels in math, more science units, and some new Social Studies cards with QR codes. Stay tuned for those.

Do you have a Word Wall in your classroom? I'd love to hear how you use it in the comments section!

Have a great weekend!


  1. I love your blog lay out and I just added so much of your stuff to my TPT wish list! Thanks :)

    I have nominated you for the Leibster award! Stop on by my blog to read more about it! {I hope you follow me if you are not already following me - I love following you!}

  2. I realize this is an older post but I wanted to say thank you for sharing this!! I LOVE the idea of using the QR codes along with the vocab, that is sheer genius! Thank you so much!!!


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