What are Word Walls?

A word wall is an organized collection of words prominently displayed in a classroom. This display is used as an interactive tool for teaching reading and spelling to children. There are many different types of word walls including high frequency words, word families, names, alphabet and "doozers".

What is its purpose?

Word walls have many benefits. They teach children to recognize and spell high frequency words, see patterns and relationship in words build phonemic awareness skills and apply phonics rules. Word walls also provide reference support for children during reading and writing activities. Children learn to be independent as they use the word walls in daily activities.

Word walls can also be used:

  • To support the teaching of important general principals about words and how they work.
  • To foster reading and writing.
  • To promote independence on the part of young students as they work with words in writing and reading.
  • To provide a visual map to help children remember connections between words and the characteristics that will help them form categories.
  • To develop a growing core of words that become part of a reading and writing vocabulary.
  • To provide reference for children during their reading and writing.

How do I do it?

  1. Make words accessible by putting them where every student can see them. They should be written in large black letters using a variety of background colours to distinguish easily confused words.
  2. Teachers should be selective about the words that go on the word wall. Try to include words that children use most commonly in their writing. Words should be added gradually - a guideline is five words per week.
  3. Use the word wall daily to practice words incoporating a variety of activities such as: chanting, snapping, cheering, clapping, tracing, word guessing games as well as writing them.
  4. Provide enough practice so that words are read and spelled automatically and make sure that word walls are always spelled correctly in the children's daily writing.

How can I adapt it?

Activities in word walls are designed to be multilevel.

On-The-Back Activities are designed to extend knowledge of the Word Wall words and to help students learn to spell other words.

Types of Word Walls

  • ABC Wall
  • Words-We-Know-Wall
  • Chunking Wall
  • Help Wall
  • Name Wall

Assessing Progress

"Good assessment is an on-going activity. Teachers watch children in a variety of reading and writing situations. They notice what strategies children are using and what they need to move them forward." (page 66 Month-by-Month Phonics for First Grade by P.M. Cunningham & D.P. Hall)

Assessment and Evaluation Considerations

  • word wall reading
  • portfolio of worg to show progress through year
  • assessment rubrics
  • spelling
  • anecdotal records
  • observations by teachers

Teacher Resources

  • Cunningham, P.M. & Allington, R.L. Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write. Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc. 1999
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Making Words. Carthage, IL: Good Apple, 1994
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Making More Big Words. Carthage, IL: Good Apple, 1994
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Making More Words. Carthage, IL: Good Apple, 1997
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Month By Month Phonics for First Grade. Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1997
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Month By Month Phonics for Second Grade. Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1998
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Month By Month Phonics for Third Grade. Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1998
  • Cunningham, P.M. & Hall, D.P. Month By Month Phonics for Upper Grades. Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1998
  • Cunningham, P.M.,Hall, D.P. & Sigmon, C.M. The Teacher's Guide To The Four Blocks. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1998
  • Cunningham, P.M., Hall, D.P. & Kohfeldt, J. Word Wall Plus For Second Grade. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1998
  • Mahaffey Sigmon, C. Implementing the 4-Blocks Literacy Model. Carson-Dellosa Publishing, 1997
  • Schiffer Daniff, V. The Pocket Chart Book. Scholastic Professional Books, New York, 1996
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