word wall strategy

Posted by: Alesia Netuk

Updated: April 6th, 2022

How Using Word Wall Strategy Can Help Your Students Improve Literacy Skills

How Using Word Wall Strategy Can Help Your Students Improve Literacy Skills

Word walls are excellent instructional tools to support children with reading and writing. They offer a host of benefits and can be used in multiple ways to help children develop their literacy skills.

Why Use Word Walls?

  • It is an effective instructional tool.
  • Build phonics and spelling skills.
  • Support children’s reading and writing.

What is a word wall?

A word wall is a collection of words displayed for children to refer to. They can consist of high-frequency words, specialized vocabulary from subjects like math and science, or words that children are frequently misspell. The words are typically categorized by the letter they begin with so children can find them easily.

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Creating a Word Wall

Word walls can be created on a bulletin board, whiteboard, or wall for children to access. Or, smaller, individual word walls can be made for each child. These more portable word walls can be kept at each child’s desk or table. 

When creating a large word wall display, choose an area with enough space that allows you to continue adding more and more words to it. Also, make sure the words will be displayed so children can easily see them. Having words up near the ceiling, for example, is not ideal for young children.  

Since words are organized according to the letter they begin with, create headings from A to Z. Leave enough space under each letter to add words. Some educators have children make the headings, use commercially-made letters, or create the headings themselves. 

The next step is to add words to the wall. Again, these may be written by the children, store-bought words, or written by the educator. Some educators prefer that children write the words to promote ownership of the word wall and ensure it is a collaborative effort. When attaching the words to the wall, consider whether they will be staying in place or if you want children to be able to take the words down to use during writing activities. Depending on how you intend to use your word wall, tape, sticky tack, or velcro work well.  

If you are making individual word walls, file folders work well. Attach a page divided into spaces for each letter of the alphabet. Words can be added using a pencil or marker. The folders are small enough that they can be easily tucked away in a desk when not in use. One benefit of personal word walls is that they can be tailored to the specific words each child needs to focus on.     

Using a Word Wall

For word walls to be effective instructional tools, children need to be taught how to use them and provided with many opportunities to reference them. The goal is to have children independently access the word wall to support their writing. Instead of asking you how to spell words, they find the words on their own and copy them from the wall.

Using a collaborative and authentic approach when adding words to the wall is essential. If an educator simply adds a bunch of words to the display without input or context, the word wall will be very challenging for children to use. Instead, add words that children are currently learning, focusing on in their reading or writing, or regularly asking for help. Make sure the words are written clearly, using correct letter formation, and add them to the wall together.

Start out slowly. Don’t add so many words that it’s difficult for children to find the one they want. Also, be mindful of adding words that are commonly mixed up. For example, adding “the” and “they” at the same time may cause confusion.

how to use word wall

When introducing a word wall, children will need reminders to use it until it becomes routine. As they become more accustomed to using it, you may be able to add three to five new words each week.

Word Wall Activities

To support the goal of having children use the word wall independently as a reference tool, incorporate daily word wall activities into your program. Try having children chant, clap, or cheer the words to become more familiar with them. When they are writing, set the expectation that all word wall words be spelled correctly since they can be easily referenced. A good learning center activity is “Read the Room.” Give children pointers and have them go around the room, reading all the words that are displayed, including those on the word wall.   

Try playing “Word Wall Bingo.” Each child writes words from the word wall on a bingo card. Take the words off the wall and shuffle them up. Choose a word, then have ch