Word walls can be a powerful tool in any classroom. Several years ago I made the switch to an interactive word wall and never looked back. Let me tell you why.
My first year of teaching I created this huge word wall display that took up an entire wall. I think I put less than 10 words up on it all year long. My second year of teaching I decided to go ahead and put up ALL the words for the year. I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. It never got used. My third year of teaching is when it all changed. I went to a workshop at our service center and that is when I was introduced to interactive word walls. I decided to give it a shot and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
So, let’s talk about word walls! I’m going to explain what an interactive word wall is, share why I love it so much, give you tips on how to introduce it to your class, and answer some of the most common questions I get about them.
What is an interactive word wall?
An interactive word wall is a TOOL for your students to use. The word cards that would normally be displayed on your wall are placed on binder rings. These rings are organized alphabetically and placed on binder rings that are hung up on your wall. Your students can go grab a word ring and use it anytime they may need. Example: A student is writing a story and doesn’t know how to spell the word “because”. They know the word begins with the letter B so they go up and grab the B ring of words and take it back to their seat.
Why use an interactive word wall?
- They are a HUGE space saver! Mine is actually located below a large bulletin board.
In another classroom, I had mine displayed between two bulletin boards.
2. It’s INTERACTIVE! During independent practice, students can easily access any word ring that they might need and take it back to where they are sitting. The word cards are not limited to just the wall. They can be used as flashcards or to play games. Example: During word work, have them select 5 H words and put them in ABC order.
3. It’s ENGAGING! Interactive word walls are hands on which make learning personable for them. They love to take responsibility for their learning. Teach them that this is a TOOL for them to use and it can be helpful to those who struggle.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to introduce an interactive word wall?
I introduce it at the beginning of the year when routines are established. Students should learn right off the bat that it is a tool and not a toy. Explain what a word wall is and how it can help them during their writing. Model how to correctly take a word ring off the wall and how to put it back properly. I also model incorrect ways to do this and have them explain what I did wrong. I always made sure my students placed the word ring back on the hook with the letter card facing the front.
What words should your word wall include?
At the beginning of the year, I have all sight words ready to go on each ring. If you teach grades younger grades, you can add new sight word cards as words are learned.
We also add new vocabulary words that are learned throughout the year. I like to help my students take control of their learning. If they spot a “juicy” word in a book they are reading, they can create a word card and add it to our word rings.
You can also have content related words for different subjects such as math, grammar (nouns, verbs, adjectives), science or social studies.
How to incorporate a word wall?
They use the word wall anytime they are working independently. It is mainly used during writing and word work.
How do you keep it all organized?
When I introduce how to use our word wall, we model and practice how it should be used. If at anytime I notice that our word wall is being mistreated, I take the time to review how to use it correctly again.
As for storing the word cards, I place all sight words on the rings at the beginning of the year. Words that I know will be added later on are organized in an index card box so that I can use them from year to year.
When do you allow students to use your word wall?
Anytime they need it!! I would never stop a child from using it unless I was giving a spelling test or some sort of assessment.
How will my students know the word they are looking for is there?
Honestly, they may not because not every single word they are exposed to will end up on the word wall. Towards the beginning of the year, they may ask me if it is on the wall. The more exposure they have using the wall, the more familiar they will become with it and they will start to remember which words are there and which words are not.
With this EDITABLE resource, your students can add any words they want. You could have a spot in your classroom where students can jot down words. Once a week or every other week, you could create cards for the words they have chosen.
Do you start out with all the words or add to them as you go?
As I mentioned above, I start with all sight word cards at the beginning of the year and then add new vocabulary words as they are learned. I think this is a personal preference.
How do the rings stay on the wall?
I have hung my rings two ways. One classroom that I was in had cinderblock walls. I used these small Command hooks and they worked perfectly.
Another classroom I was in allowed me to use tacks and they worked well too.
I prefer the Command hooks over tacks but both are good options.
What ring size do you use?
One inch binder rings work great. I’ve never needed to size up.
Do you laminate them?
I do only because I want them to last from year to year. I recommend printing onto card stock and then laminating.
If you have a responsible class or teach upper grades, you could probably get away with just card stock and no lamination.
What words are included in your resource?
My Interactive Word Wall resource includes all of the Dolch sight words for the pre-primer – third grade lists. Editable cards are included for you to add your own words.
I hope that you’ve found this information helpful. Now, are you ready to take the plunge and add word walls to your classroom?!? You won’t regret it!
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