What are Word Wall Cards? January 06 2009

Some tips on setting up the word wall in your classroom.A word wall is really a “dictionary on the wall.” Designed by Sheron Brown, reading specialist and author of All Sorts of Sorts,  the TRC word wall collection contains the high frequency writing words students need in their everyday writing activities.

The word wall is organized alphabetically, with the individual word wall cards located under their beginning sounds. Each high frequency word card is printed in heavy black print with its letter configuration (word shape) outlined in color to aid your students in visual discrimination.

The word wall grows by five new words every week, with a final total of 125-135 words “on the wall” by the end of the school year.

Each day, a five to eight minute practice activity serves to highlight the word wall words. Simply having the words up on a word wall is not enough. Doing daily activities with the words works!

How do I start?

Identify a particular time in your language arts time block to highlight and practice the word wall words daily. A good time to schedule this important five to eight minute activity is right after your class is transitioning from another curricular area, or perhaps from a recess or lunch break.

Each Monday add five new words to the word wall, all of which should begin with a different letter. Heavily emphasize the newly introduced words on the first three days of the week.

On Thursday and Friday, review words that are already up on the wall with a few of that week’s new words, particularly those that seem to be the most difficult.

How do I choose the words each week?

Select words for the word wall from those most frequently encountered by your students in their emergent reading and writing instruction. You may want to move completely through the alphabet to have at least one word under each letter, or you may choose from a list of high frequency words or a combination of both. (See lists in this guide.)

Most importantly, make word wall choices that work for you and your students.

In the first few weeks of using the word wall, be careful to choose words beginning with different letters to help students visually discriminate between the new words. To help you in this, the word cards in this kit include:

  • Consonants: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z
  • Blends: bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gr, pl, pr, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, str, tr
  • Digraphs: ch, sh, th, and wh and letter combinations: wr, kn, qu, ph
  • High utility phonograms: ack, ail, ain, ake, ale, ame, an, ank, ap, ash, at, ate, aw, ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it, ock, oke, op, ore, ot, uck, ug, ump, unk
  • Contractions: can’t, don’t, isn’t, won’t, didn’t, it’s
  • Homophones: to, two, too; there, their, they’re; no, know; one, won
  • Common primary writing words: colors, number words, family members, words about school

How do I “do” the word wall?

Select any of the word wall activities that follow. They are organized two on a page so that you can cut them apart and put them on an o-ring for easy access. Since you will be using these activities frequently, you will want to keep them handy. Be sure to vary the activities, repeating the ones the students particularly enjoy!

Some of these activities ask your students to number their papers from 1 to 5. Train your students that when you announce, “It’s word wall time!” they should immediately number a paper, unless you say otherwise. (You may wish to have all of their drills recorded in a “word wall practice book,” as each practice session requires written work.)

Always include the following components in any word wall activity you select: show the word, say the word, “snap and clap,” write the word and “touch and check.” By involving all of the learning modalities (visual, auditory and kinesthetic), you will help all of your students learn to write their word wall words quickly and correctly. If the word wall activities do not explicitly include these steps, try to incorporate them the best you can.

  1. Show the word. Begin by showing the word card to your class. While holding the word card, slide your finger under the text, saying the word aloud. If possible, let the students actually see you add each new word card to the word wall itself. Adding the card to the word wall with the children helps them recognize the cumulative growth of their visual dictionary.
  2. Say the word. After the word is added under the appropriate letter card, say the word while pointing to it on the word wall with a pointer. Students repeat the word.
  3. “Snap and clap” the word. Students snap their fingers as they name each letter (“l-i-k-e”) while the teacher (or a student) taps the letters on the word with a pointer. Children then clap their hands together and say the word aloud. Say, “Which word did we snap and clap?” Students answer, “___.”
  4. Write the word. Say, “Write _____ on line 1.”
  5. “Touch and check” all the words. After the children have written all five words, have them “touch and check” each word. They first say the word and then touch each letter of the word with their pencil points as the entire class spells the word out loud. First model this procedure by touching and checking word wall words on the overhead projector or chalkboard.

Use every opportunity during the day to point out, mention, highlight, and use the word wall words in your other curricular areas.

Have questions or ideas on using the word wall in your classroom? Please leave comments.