Word Walls

Word Walls have become a mainstay in elementary classrooms, but are not always used in middle and high school classrooms—but they can and should be! Encourage “word hunting” in your classroom by having students find words worthy of posting. Don’t have enough walls? Use chart paper and change up as often as you need. If students keep Word Books for vocabulary they will have a running list of wall words even after the chart paper wall must be replaced.

Literature Based Word Wall: The language of literature should be present in the classroom for use in writing. As students find words as they read—fascinating words, words they love , words that stick with them—have them post the word on the wall, as well as in their own word books, if you use them.

Writing Word Wall: They can also be valuable aids during writing instruction. Writers, especially those in the younger grades, often have difficulty retrieving a wide variety of words to use in their writing. Teachers can help spark their memories by posting lists of words on the wall. The list can be general or specific. If your class is studying a particular mode of writing you can post words that are often used in that type of writing. For example, when the class is working on compare-contrast writing words such as “similar”, “different”, “same” and “opposite” could be posted on the word wall to remind students to use these in their writing.

Parts of Speech Word Wall: Sometimes students struggle to understand which part of speech a word fits into. They may not remember if “pretty” is a verb because someone can “be” pretty, a noun because “pretty” usually refers to a person, place or thing or an adjective because it is a descriptive word. To help students categorize their vocabularies and understand basic concepts of grammar, teachers can create a word wall organized by part of speech (ie. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs). As students learn or study new words they can add each to the correct part of speech.

Word Roots Word Wall: Older students should be learning the Latin and Greek word roots from which a large majority of words in the English language are formed. Learning the meanings of roots  will expand vocabulary.

Content Area or Theme Word Wall: Word walls are not just for English/Language Arts classrooms. They can be incorporated in any content area classroom also. In fact, because many students struggle with content area vocabulary, they can be extremely valuable aids in helping them acquire the terms necessary to understand content area concepts and texts.  The wall will provide a visual cue for students as they discuss and write about content area topics. The wall should continue to be a “work in progress” growing throughout the school year as new terms are learned.

Standardized Test Preparation Word Wall: One of the often overlooked aspects of standardized test preparation is the vocabulary used in question and answer choices. Generally each standardized test has its own question stems, organization and methods for presenting answer choices. There is, in effect, a “vocabulary” for each test. Teachers can help students become more effective test takers by familiarizing them with the key words used in a particular standardized test. One of the ways of doing this is by creating a test preparation word wall. All of the key terms used in questions and answers should be posted on the wall. Students should be encouraged to understand and use these terms throughout the year so that they will be comfortable with them come test time.

Is this your school?

Does your school share common beliefs about what writing is?
Does your school share common beliefs about how to teach writing?
Does your faculty translate common beliefs to common practices?

Every school has a culture. In schools where writing is honored, encouraged, and part of everyday classroom tradition, the culture of the school says: We really believe our kids have something to say; We really believe our kids have the potential at every age, to express themselves with proficiency appropriate to that age.

Is this your school?  If yes, share what you are doing as a school to support the writing growth of all of your students.

OneTrueMedia–About Me


I created this 30 second digital post to introduce you to me–as an example of how quick and easy it is to share digital stories. The 30 seconds was a slight limitation as I could have added more—but it would be long enough for students. What a great way to share a poem. And, it is free–to have more than 30 seconds, you need to upgrade. But, this is typical for many, if not most, of the digital tools sites.

Poetic Words for Thought…

Big Mistake
Aunt Mariah said, when I was fifteen,
I should wait until I lived long enough
to have experiences worth sharing
before I put them into words.
So I waited and lived
until my bones were old and fragile,
but when I looked for words,
they scattered like sand.
All I found were fragile bones
that made me vulnerable and scared,
as my whispered words
pulled up buried thoughts
in a voice too weak
for the old heavy secrets
that hung like drooping flowers
near Aunt Mariah’s grave.
So I left the dead words
like Aunt Mariah inside me,
still wondering what I had to say
when I was fifteen.
Mary Carden
Mary Carden was born in Atlanta, Georgia and lived in the Belgian Congo from 1951-54, where her mother was the matron of a school for missionary children. She taught elementary school and was one of two editors for a book of children’s poetry, “I Am of Two Places” (Rigby, 1997).