Why a Word Wall?
In my fifth year of teaching I was told I had to have a word wall. In all honesty, I thought the idea was dumb. I printed a bunch of words on colored copy paper and made a bulletin board. There! Done! That was the extent of my word wall. I had met the requirement but the word wall was totally useless.
After years of employing this useless tactic, I saw the light when a student asked me, “what does that word mean?” WHAT?!?!?!? You don’t know what that means? This was my wake up moment. I assumed that the students would just pick up on the words I used in class. Obviously, I was wrong.
Using Word Walls in the Classroom
A word wall should be used as a learning tool. Your students will be looking at the walls of your classroom EVERY day – take advantage of it! I now use my word wall to reinforce the vocabulary I use in the classroom. At the beginning of each unit, I add to my word wall and, every time I use a word in the classroom, I point to the word wall. (Well, maybe not every time!)
Look and Feel of a Word Wall
Since becoming a word wall advocate I’ve taken note of several word walls. I’ve noted the ones that I really like and the ones that are so-so. Here are some rules for creating an first-rate word wall.
1.) Use dark colored ink with a white or LIGHT colored background. Brightly colored paper is great for borders and designs but not for the actual word cards.
2.) Support your words with images. As often as possible include a picture with your word. This really helps students remember the meaning of the word!
3.) Group unit words together. I make title headings for my units and put my words for that unit under each of the headings. (I do use color for my title headings. I’ve found that students will sometimes remember the color but not the word… it’s one step closer to remembering the word!)
4.) Remember to update your word wall. Students notice EVERYTHING! They will notice that you’ve updated the wall and they will refer to it. It’s also nice to have the students ask what a word means before you’ve even used it in class!