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Word Walls: Ideas, Activities & Games

Instructor: Felicia Landry

Felicia has a bachelor's degree in journalism and has been a writer for the past 23 years.

Word walls are designed to help students from elementary school through high school improve reading and writing skills, as well as increase their vocabulary. Here are some activities and ideas to help make word walls a success in your classroom.

Types of Word Walls

Sight Word Wall

This is a tool for use in primary grades where reading mainly consists of sight words. To create this board, write a sight word onto an 8 1/2'' x 11'' paper and tack it onto the word wall. Repeat this process for each sight word the students learn. Eventually the word wall will contain all sight words necessary to read at grade level.

Writing Modes Word Wall

This word wall assists student with writing lessons, and can work well with younger students who have trouble recalling different words to use in their writing. The writing word wall contains both specific and general lists of words that can be used when writing in a specific mode, or for a specific topic. For example, if the class is learning about chronological writing, the word wall can contain words such as 'after,' 'then,' 'finally' and 'next.'

Content Area Word Wall

Word walls can also be used in subjects like science, math or geography. They can be effective tools in helping students who struggle with vocabulary in these subjects better understand content-specific concepts. Teachers write vocabulary and key words on strips of paper and attach them to the wall. This provides a visual reminder for students as they write and discuss topics in these subjects. As the year progresses, teachers should add new content area words, so that at the end of the year, the wall contains all important words.

Word Wall Activities

In addition to having the word wall as a point of reference for students, teachers can also use world wall activities to help reinforce learning.

OOPS!

Materials:

  • File box of word cards containing every word from the word wall
  • Cards with OOPS! written in big red letters (about one OOPS! card for every 15 word cards)

To play this game, the teacher should randomly place all the word cards and OOPS! cards into the file box before the game begins. To start the game, one student will come forward and pull a card from the box. That student then reads the card to the class. If he reads the word correctly, he keeps the card. If not, the card is placed back into the file box. Continue with the game in this manner. When a student pulls an OOPS! card, he must place all his cards back into the box. After 10 to 15 minutes, the student with the most cards wins.

Vocabulary Toss

Materials:

  • Mini basketball net with sponge basketball
  • Questions matched to words on the classroom word wall (see below)

First, set up the mini basketball net in the classroom and prepare at least one question per student that uses a word on the word wall. For example, provide a sentence with a missing word that can be found on the word wall.

To play, divide the class into two to four teams. Ask one of the prepared questions to the first player on the first team. If that student guesses correctly, they earn a point and a chance to earn an extra point by shooting the basketball in the net. If they make the shot, they earn an extra point. There is no penalty for missing the shot. If the student incorrectly answers the question, it goes to the first player on the next team. At the end of play, the team with the most points wins.

Additional Literacy Resources

In addition to word walls, you can gather ideas and strategies for teaching reading and vocabulary with these Study.com lessons and chapters:

Activities for Developing Writing Skills

AEPA Reading K-8: Phonemic & Spelling Awareness

AEPA Reading K-8: Teaching Vocabulary & Literacy

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