A well-planned word wall allows students to quickly access familiar high frequency words from word study instruction. As they are writing, they can simply glance up, find the word, and continue to write. With the word wall, there’s no need to interrupt their work to search through a dictionary or booklet. Glancing at the word word wall is a great way for students to remember a familiar word and continue on with their work, reserving their energy for bigger and more important things.
The key to success with a word wall is that students can quickly find the words when they need them. If the word wall isn’t used often, or is too far away to be seen easily, then students are back to searching for the word they need instead of scanning quickly.
One engaging way to help students become familiar with the word wall in your own classroom is to play quick word wall games daily. These games get students reading the words and familiarizing themselves with where each word is located. Here are three of my all time favorites:
GUESS THE WORD
To play this game, the teacher gives clues, and the students guess which word. You might say, “I’m thinking of a word with three letters,” or “I’m thinking of a word with two vowels,” or “I’m thinking of a word that begins with a digraph.” These clues get students reading the whole word wall searching for the one word that fits the clues. Once the game is familiar, you can also invite students to give clues to a word.
This is a simple game, but super engaging. Turn out the lights, and point a flashlight or laser pointer at your word wall and kids spell and read the word (or cheer for the word if you’ve taught them how to do that). You can read them in order from A-Z, or backward from Z-A, or skip around and try to “trick” the kids. Silly, but effective. I like to use it as a quick transition for lining up to leave the room — as each group takes a few turns reading words, they line up. This game gets students rereading the words on the word wall in an engaging way.
Remove a word (or two or three) from the word wall, and students take turns guessing which word is missing. They can ask questions to get clues such as, “Does it begin with ____?” or “Is it a verb?” Sometimes they guess right away, other times it takes a little longer. This game gets student reading the whole word wall to figure out which one is missing.
There are zillions of other games you can play with the word wall. Some are designed to help student recognize individual words on sight, other games help students use the words they know to spell other words. The games listed here help students familiarize themselves with where the words are located, so that when they are writing, the can glance up at the word wall quickly to find the word and recall how to spell it.
For more word wall ideas, see this post from October.
What are your favorite word wall games? Share below!
Literacy Coach, Consultant, Author, Graduate Course Instructor, and Mom. Passionate about fostering a love of reading and writing in learners of all ages.