Word walls are alphabetized collections of words posted in the classroom that students can refer to when they are reading and writing and for word-study activities. Words for the word wall can be written on large sheets of butcher paper or on cards displayed in pocket charts, and they are often written in alphabetical orders so that students can locate the words more easily.
There are three types of word walls: One type is a high-frequency word wall, and primary teachers post the 100 higher-frequency words on this word wall (Cunningham, 2000). A second type of word wall is a content-area word wall, and teachers and students write important words related to the unit on the word wall. A third type of word wall is a literature word wall, and teachers and students write interesting, confusing, and important words from the story they are reading. A literature word wall for Sarah, Plain and Tall (MacLachlan, 1983) is shown in Figure 18. The three types of word walls should be posted separately in the classroom because if the words are mixed, students will have difficulty categorizing the words.
The steps in using a literature word wall are:
1. Prepare the word wall. Teachers hang a long sheet of butcher paper on a blank wall in the classroom and divide it into alphabetical categories. Or, teachers can display a large pocket chart on a classroom wall and prepare a stack of cards on which to write the words. Then they add the title of the book students are reading at the top of the word wall.
2. Introduce the word wall. Teachers introduce the word wall and add character names and other several key words during preparing activities before reading.
3. Add words to the word wall. After reading a picture book or after reading each chapter of a chapter book, students suggest additional “important” words for the word wall. Students and the teacher write the words in alphabetical categories on the butcher paper or on word cards, making sure to write large enough so that most students can see the words. Or, if a pocket chart is being used, students arrange the word cards in alphabetical order.
4. use the word wall for exploring activities. Students use the word wall words for a variety of vocabulary activities, such as word sorts and story maps. Students also refer to the word wall when they are writing in reading logs or working on projects.
For other types of word walls, teachers follow a similar approach to post words on the word walls and highlight the words through various activities.