Do you have a word wall in your classroom? Using a word wall is a great way to learn sight words, master spelling, and ultimately promote reading fluency. Using your word wall every day can add so much to your daily lessons but it can be easy to forget about if you don’t have a plan for how you will use it. Today I am sharing 5 tips for making your word wall a daily learning tool in the classroom!
Word walls can either be a helpful tool or a fixture of classroom decor that gets forgotten. Don’t let your word wall go unnoticed! Using your word wall daily will enrich your lessons, and provide opportunities for active learning. When I was still in the classroom, I aimed to use our word wall as much as possible. Over the years, I have collected a few strategies and tips for making the most of it!
1. Keep The Word Wall Updated
First off, you will want to make sure you are keeping your word wall updated. The wall should be kept up to date and used daily in the classroom for best results. On ours, I liked to include a variety of new words we were learning, including:
- Sight Words
- Vocabulary Words
- Spelling Words
- Seasonal Words
As you add new words, be sure to introduce them to the whole class prior. I liked to do this during our Monday morning meeting to kick off our week. Depending on the space you have allotted for your word wall, you likely will have to “retire” words from the word wall after your students have a good grasp of them. Rather than taking them down and forgetting about them all together, I liked to make this into a whole group activity as well.
About once a month, I would select words that needed to come down from the word wall. These might have been our last bunch of spelling words, seasonal words that are no longer needed, or sight words my students had mastered.
I gathered up these words and ran through them once more with my students and then had the children add the words to their vocabulary notebooks if they hadn’t already. This way, students will have a record of all the words we have had up on the wall throughout the year. This is an excellent resource to use during writing centers!
2. Start The Morning With WorD Review
I’ve already covered how important it is to have a solid morning routine in your classroom. Having a great morning routine will calm the chaos in your classroom and help your students know what to expect on a daily basis.
Typically, a first-grade morning routine will include greetings, morning work, calendar time, and word work. I like to spend some time focusing on our word wall during this time and having my kiddos take turns reading important words.
During this time you can ask volunteers to read specific sight words, spelling words, or vocabulary words. While this is a simple activity, it really does make a difference for children trying to learn a variety of high-frequency words. Constant exposure to these words will make them stick, so be sure to add some dedicated word reviews to your morning routine if you aren’t already!
3. Make The Word Wall An Active Learning Experience
Firsties can be a wiggly bunch. They need to get up and move around every so often and I would even argue that having some “active” learning time in the classroom actually helps to renew focus during a long day.
For this reason, I loved having students “body spell” words from our wall from time to time. This makes a great, quick, and easy transition activity anytime you find yourself with a few minutes to spare.
Call a few students up to the wall at a time or have the whole class do this at their desks. Students will stand up and I will point out a word on the wall. Then, students say the word and begin “body spelling”.
For tall letters that fall above the line on a piece of paper (such as t, h, or k) students will reach for the sky as they say the letter. Then, for letters that rest in the middle (such as a, c, and e) students will place their hands on their hips. For letters falling below the line (such as g, j, and y) students will touch their toes.
Sometimes it is helpful to draw tall, short, and long boxes around each letter to illustrate which category each falls into until students get the hang of it. I loved this activity because it helps students think about how the letters look when writing on a piece of paper. This activity seems to help trigger the memory of spelling words in a fun way.
4. Word Work During Center Time
Your word wall is also a valuable tool for center time! I loved using our collection of words for simple, no-fuss word work centers. If you ever find yourself in need of just one more center, the word wall comes in handy and requires NO prep! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Build & Write Center: For this option simply provide kiddos with alphabet letters and blank, lined paper. Students will choose words from the wall, build them with magnetic letters or letter tiles, and then write them on their paper. You could ask them to focus on specific spelling words, new sight words, or words that all begin with a specific letter.
- Journal Writing: For this option, students will bring their journals over to the word wall. I like to provide an easy prompt that goes along with the season or something we are learning about. Students will write a few sentences on the prompt and then use a colored marker or crayon to circle any words in their story that can be found on the word wall. Sometimes I challenge them to use a certain number of words in their writing.
- Roll & Write: For this activity, you will need to make a key for students detailing what word to write for each side on a die cube. I would just quickly draw the dots (for each side of the die) on the board and then assign a word to each. Students will roll their dice, find the corresponding word and write it a set number of times.
5. Play “I Spy” With Your Students
It’s no secret that first graders LOVE games. I was a big fan of using learning games in the classroom, as they provide such high levels of student engagement.
One of my favorite games to play that uses our word wall is “I Spy”. This is a simple concept and another great activity to sneak into your day any time you have just a few minutes to spare.
All you need to do is provide a clue or two for the word you are thinking of. As your students think about which word fits your clue, they will raise their hands and share their guesses with the class.
Some good clues might be:
- I spy a word that rhymes with…..
- I spy a word that starts with…. and ends with…..
- I spy a word that means…..
- I spy a word that’s the opposite of…
Children love this game and I love that it requires no prepping or additional materials besides our word wall. I often snuck this game in at the end of the day before dismissal to end on a fun note!
Make The Most Of Your Own Word Wall
Ready to start collecting and displaying words in your classroom? I highly recommend using a word wall if you’re looking to increase fluency and reinforce common word spellings. As we discussed, the key to making your word wall work for you is to use it often!
In addition to being a great way to learn new words and master spelling, word walls are a beautiful addition to your classroom decor theme. I love them so much that I designed a variety of decorative word wall sets over the years. You can check them all out in my shop if you’re interested in giving your word wall a facelift!
Save these word wall activities
Don’t forget to save these word wall activities to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can quickly come back when you need new activities to use with your word wall!