10 September 2014

Let's Talk Word Walls

If you’re a teacher, there’s a good chance you’ve got a Word Wall in your room {either by desire or demand}.  9 times out of 10, the Word Wall you spent hours planning, setting up, & prepping is just a piece of wall décor.  Am I right or am I totally off base?!  Maybe I’m just speaking from experience.  Hopefully you know what I’m talking about! 

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with my Word Walls.  They’re not conveniently located.  At all.  And really, that’s all my fault.  I could make it more accessible.  I would always start out the year with a BANG….like we all do.  I would add words to the wall every week.  Then a few months in and I start getting lazy.  

Do I REALLY have to stand on that shelf to put those words up??  
UGH…I’ll just wait until tomorrow.
 And then tomorrow becomes two weeks later. Grrrr.  The struggle is real!

I’ve been working with a few teachers who have the exact same issue.  Inaccessible, ineffective word walls.  So we got to work and started brainstorming ways to fix the issue.  Thank God for Pinterest {can I get an amen?!}  I do realize Pinterest isn’t a person and I’m not going to credit the website…I’m just thankful I can search for something and about a thousand VISUAL images pop up in the same place.  Love that.  I am SUCH a visual learner!!!

My favorite Word Wall displays are those that are bordered and sectioned off on cabinets or white boards.  I haven’t been able to do this because I’ve never had any accessible cabinets and my white board was either blocked by the SmartBoard or had to be used as a screen for my projector.  Like I said…the struggle is REAL.

I’m a little obsessed with brain research and think it’s SO fascinating.  Did you know that our brain is actually programmed to see in borders?!  SO cool!!! 

Speaking of making things visually easier for our kids to process, another thing you might want to consider is adding an anchor picture with each header to help with letter/sound relationships…this is especially important for our babies who find letter & sound recognition a bit challenging.  The amazing Debbie Diller talks about this, too.   I created these word wall header cards for these sweet teachers to use in their rooms…just click on the pic to download some for your classroom, too! {FREE!!}

I’ve always put my words on the wall in one uniform color and the background paper has always been solid. Research shows that the uniformity helps our kids to process and retain information and the solid background colors that serve as a base for your word walls cut out any additional visual distractions.  I think minimal distractions are so important for our emergent readers!

For our primary kids, it’s imperative to put the Word Wall in an accessible place.  This isn’t always possible due to space restrictions and what not, but I love these solutions…

If the thought of having a portable word wall scares you a bit….not being able to see each word on the wall as you would with a traditional word wall space….you could always incorporate both in your classroom.  You just have to get a little creative with your space J

I’ve always utilized a personal Word Wall for each of my kids as well.  Each one of my babies gets one at the beginning of the year and then they add to it as the year goes on.  Just staple/glue the pages to the back and front of a file folder and laminate.  Voila!  You can use vis a vis markers to add words as the year progresses and if the word walls are still in good condition at the end of the year you can save them and reuse them next year, too!  {However, I know our Kinder friends might have a little struggle with that ;)}  Grab your Personal Word Wall FREEBIE!  Just click on the pic!

At the beginning of the year in Kindergarten, our babies struggle with handwriting…most of them, anyway.  So what I’d do is have them bring their personal word walls to the teacher table during our guided reading/small group instruction and I’d quickly add words {that we have ALREADY learned and reviewed} to their walls.  I gradually release control as the year …and their handwriting…progresses.

The first words that go on the word wall are our names.  I usually start the year out with NO words on the wall.  Then we add names after the first couple of days or so.  I always have a picture next to their names as well {I usually create these in Power Point after I take all of their pictures so that I can make multiple copies for various name activities we do during that first month of school}.  This is an example of what that looks like....

As the year goes on, we add more and more words to the wall, but ONLY after we have learned and reviewed them…typically a week after they’re introduced.  I keep those words on our focus wall and then transfer them to the word wall. 

Now that the word wall is set up, what in the world are we supposed to do with it?!  I know it’s all too easy for it to just become another “pretty thing” in our classroom.  It can be challenging to figure out how to incorporate it into everyday classroom happenings and make it relevant.  But I think that’s the key…incorporating it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY….then it becomes a habit!  And the kids have SO much fun with it, too!

I put together a little resource for the teachers I’ve been working with…just a little something to help them make their word walls more interactive.  It includes 32 teacher activity cards {that’s 32 different ways to incorporate the every day use of the word wall in your room}, printables that accompany some of the activities, and 200 words for the word wall {plus an editable template for you to add more words  as needed  Like we talked about earlier, I’ve always displayed my word wall words in black and red, on white background. {consonants = black, vowels = red}.  Maybe this will be helpful for you, too!

Here’s a little sample freebie from the packet…maybe it’s something you can use in your room this year J

I’d love to hear more about the way you incorporate the use of the Word Wall in your classrooms!  


  1. How do you use powerpoint to make your names…they look awesome!

  2. I would love the power point nametags! I have no idea how to do that.

  3. Cara any way you could make the word wall headers into a bigger alphabet? (like 8" x 8" maybe?) I would love to use this as my alphabet line since I just made brand new word wall headers. Just love your style! Let me know. I would absolutely be willing to pay for it too if you put it on tpt ;) Thanks for considering!!

    1. I would love to have a large version as well!

    2. I would love a large version too, please. I am totally willing to pay so that I could have everything be cohesive. (Linking chart, personal word wall, word wall headers, and alphabet line) Please let me know if you would be willing to help!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and a FREEBIE from the packet! I can't wait to try it out. Word Wall has always been a problem for me. Love the idea, but have no idea where to put it except UP. It's a shame that school builders never ask teachers about classroom layouts. What a concept!

  5. Love your ideas. I also have a Word Jail that goes with my word wall. I put it up beside the word wall and we put words in it that don't follow the rules - words like was and because are examples. It really helps kids to learn to spell and read those tricky words. You can see what I mean on my blog Hanging Around In Primary

  6. I love your ideas! I work hard to really use my word wall! I have my words printed on different color cardstock too. All of the first six week words are red and the second six week words are blue, etc. The kids have their own set of flashcards in their reading notebook that are the same too. I also keep my words on magnets so the kids can read them and take them as needed. After researching I also decided to make my word wall linear instead of A to M and then N to Z on the next line. It's a little tight, but hopefully the benefits with be worth it! : )

    Yeehaw! Teaching in Texas

  7. Amen! Thank you- I love how easy this can actually be!

  8. Hello-
    I love your ideas!! I am trying to get the freebies but it keeps saying there is an error. It will only download the first page. Do you know what the problem might be?

    Thanks for your help!!

  9. When subbing I've noticed that students can have conflicting rules in their head. Use the word wall and don't leave your seat and walk around room. When writing I encourage them to get up and look at the word wall or sight words or any other display to help their writing.

  10. I am trying something new with my word wall this year. It is low for my Kinders to access. Each word is laminated and hot glued to a clothespin. Each letter has a ribbon staples under it that the words are attached to. We add our new words each Monday from the previous week. Then during writing the students are encouraged to get words they need help with off the wall to use and then return when they are finished with them. So far so good, keeping my fingers crossed for continued success as we keep adding more words. Love the name cards with pictures, I am going to have to do that.

    Luv My Kinders

  11. My friend attached a magnet to the back of each word and used a section of her whiteboard for the word wall. When a student needs a word they can just go grab it and take it back to their desks and then return it when they are done. It is much more accessible to the students this way.

  12. Thanks for the personal word wall freebie!
    First Grade Found Me

  13. I love your idea! But I cant seem to get it downloaded. It keeps coming up with an error. Do you know what I might be dong wrong?
    Thanks, Megan

  14. Please make the alphabet header cards in a larger version. ...like maybe 1 letter per page? TPT would be great, I'll buy them there. Thank you!

  15. Hi! Thanks for sharing your amazing ideas! I use the word wall in my combo class and use green cardstock for 1st grade HFW's and blue for the 2nd grade words. Then I use the freebie personal word wall for vocabulary words. Thanks you are amazing!