Word walls are often forgotten about for middle and high school classrooms. However, they are highly effective in helping students remember their learning. Read below to find out more about this great teaching strategy.
How Do Word Walls Work?
- Make a space in your room that you will dedicate to your word wall. This could be a large bulletin board, a whiteboard, or even an actual wall. I have seen 3-sided Science fair display boards used for this purpose.
- Determine which words you will include on your word wall. These should be words that your students will encounter frequently and need to be familiar with.
- Places like your scope and sequence, curriculum maps, book vocabulary lists, etc. are great places to pull from. You also might consider letting students “nominate” words for the wall.
- As the unit/term/year progresses, you can add to the list of words. This is a great thing to have students participate in as well.
- Add things like pictures, illustrations, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, examples, etc. to the words on your word wall.
- Refer and encourage students to refer to your word wall often.
How Do I Use Word Walls?
- I use my word wall for key vocabulary. We will focus on a limited number of words that are important over the course of the whole unit. (Think “discrimination” or “prejudice” during To Kill a Mockingbird and “ally” or “genocide” during a unit on World War Two.)
- A couple of times each week we will focus on this wall in the classroom. Individually or in small groups I will ask students to focus on providing a new synonym, a drawing, to create a sentence using one of the words from our Word Wall, etc. These activities can take as little as three minutes, but used over a period of several weeks, they help to vastly improve students’ understanding.
Why Do I Love This Strategy?
- They are an easy and useful reference point. When you or your students want to refer to a word, the word is right there. This saves precious class minutes by not having to pull out textbooks or dictionaries. Students are also more likely to use these words if they can easily access them.
- They appeal to many styles of learning. For visual learners, there are images. For linguistic learners, there are written words.
- They can be made digital by typing the words on to a Google Doc or Slide.
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