Word walls are an important part of early childhood classrooms. I’ve had one in every classroom I’ve taught in, both preschool and kindergarten. They’re used differently depending on the age of the children, but they’re important nonetheless. I use them as a way to get my students learning about letters and words throughout the year.
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using word walls in preschool, kindergarten, and home schools
What is a word wall?
Simply put, it’s a place to showcase important words in the classroom. These words can include names, sight words, theme words, etc.
Why are word walls important?
Word walls add to a print-rich classroom environment and help children learn words. Kids are able to reference the words when writing, which gives students independence and problem solving skills. The words are also a great reference when reading, allowing children to make connections to the books they read. Word walls help teach the alphabetic principle, as well. All of this culminates in children learning to read words, to write words, and how words work.
How to create a word wall
The basic ingredients for a word wall are letters of the alphabet, picture cues for each letter, and age-appropriate words. Sometimes word walls don’t even include the alphabet, just a collection of words children can reference as needed.
Where word walls are located can vary wildly. Some are kept on bulletin boards, in pocket charts, or on a piece of paper taped to the wall. I’ve seen them located within file folders, in small notebooks, and on the back of classroom furniture. Word walls can be created in small spaces or large spaces. With a little creativity, some kind of word wall can be created in any classroom.
My interactive word wall
Throughout my years of teaching, I’ve had many different word walls. The one I have this year is definitely my favorite, and it’s a format I plan to keep for years to come! The main reason I love it — my students can access, and remove, each of the words on the word wall!
I covered one of my classroom’s bulletin boards with butcher paper and a border. From there, I added the letters of the alphabet, each one on its own piece of paper. I used DJ Inkers’ “Alphabet Smiles” download (affiliate link) as the basis for each letter page.
To create the words, I simply wrote them on pieces of construction paper and cut them out. When cutting them out, I accentuated the size of the letters by cutting around each carefully. I then laminated each word for sturdiness.
Once all of that was taken care of, I placed a velcro dot on the back of each word and a corresponding velcro dot on the letter page. This is what allows the students to remove and replace the words as they’re used.
Words to include on the word wall
For preschool, I usually focus on the children’s names and certain sight words they’re interested in (‘mom’, ‘dad’, ‘love’, etc.). When I taught kindergarten, I used names and sight words they needed to learn before first grade. For both preschool and kindergarten, I’ve made separate themed word walls depending on what we’re learning about that month.
How to use word walls
Be sure to only use words that are being taught and used. For example, at the beginning of the year I have my students’ names on our word wall (as well as the teachers’ names). As the year progresses, I add sight words that the children seem to ask about over and over again. I also add words that we’ve used in our book-making activities. All of the words on the word wall have meaning to the children. They weren’t just slapped on without being introduced to the kiddos.
Here are some examples for using a word wall in the classroom. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means!
- Read the room as a class, or in small groups. Using a fun pointer, help the kiddos say the letters of the alphabet and read the words under the letters.
- Show the children how to find, remove, and reattach the words. Encourage the use when drawing pictures for friends, writing in their journals, etc. Help as needed, of course!
- Play silly games using the word wall. “I’m thinking of a word that starts with ‘t’ . . .”, “Who can find the word under C c cat?”, etc.
- When reading a book, ask a child to point to a high frequency word on the word wall (that’s also in the book).
- Have children draw a picture and label it with a word wall word. This is especially useful with thematic words.
Other word walls
As I mentioned earlier, word walls can come in all shapes and sizes! Below are some different variations to check out:
- Rainbows Within Reach has an amazing collection of word wall photos
- Pre-K Pages shares a variety of thematic mini word walls that can be printed
- Teach Preschool shares how her students use her non-traditional word wall
- Dragonflies in First has her word wall on her classroom’s cabinets.
- Ashleigh’s Education Journey uses ribbons on her word wall.
- First Grade Fabulous Fish has a “regular” word wall, as well as mobile mini word walls