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A Guide to Using Word Walls in Early Childhood Classrooms

written by: Marlene Gundlach • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 3/2/2012

Looking for a fun way to build word recognition? Build a word wall! Once it is in place, it provides a daily reference for many classroom activities.

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    Making a Word Wall

    I always suggest you build a word wall with input from your students. Word walls in Prekindergarten are used to build word recognition. One way to build up your word wall is to simply work through the alphabet, one letter each day. Using note cards, ask students for contributions for each letter. Write the words on a card and hang them up where they are visible. As you move through your daily work, students may come up with more words, so leave room under each letter for late additions. Since your students will have input in the words being put up on the word wall, they take pride in their work.

    In early childhood word walls should primarily be used to teach students their names and their friend's names. They should also include picture associations. Snapshots of the students should accompany their names.

    Word walls in early childhood should include very basic, every day words and should include picture associations at every opportunity. Pictures can be either cut from magazines or from actual sight word cards. Here are some examples:

    cat, dog, girl, boy, bird, mom, dad, baby, cow, frog, pig, eat, like, I, and, hands, feet, my.

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    Advanced Early Childhood Word Wall Activities

    letters Rhyming words are an easy way to build a student's vocabulary. Work with the class to choose sets of word families from the word wall. Then, on a piece of chart paper, add more words to each family that may be missing from the word wall. Begin with the basics, such as the -at, -ug, and -an families.

    Say It, Spell It, Check It is an easy game that students can play in pairs. Have one student sit with their back to the word wall, and the other calls out a word to spell. Students can write the word on a marker board. Then, both students can use the word wall to check the spelling.

    Since you have used note cards for your word wall, you can take the words down for many of the activities. For an abc order activity, start by choosing three words from the word wall and work as a class to put them in alphabetical order. At this level, you will want to choose words that each begin with a different letter. Slowly work to increase the number of words you use.

    You can also use word walls in prekindergarten to work on basic word recognition and writing. Choose 2-3 words and have students write a sentence and draw a picture that uses all three words. If the students' levels dictate that a only picture is drawn, have them tell you a sentence that goes with the picture and uses all of the words. You can then write the sentence on the picture for them. You can slowly increase the number of words you choose.

    Give students cut outs of letters if the alphabet and use the letters to spell words from the word wall. Working with a partner, they can choose a word, spell it out, and have the partner say what the word is.

    As you begin to work on writing, encourage students to use the word wall to help them with their spelling.

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    Daily Use

    Refer to your word wall as much as possible. The more you use word walls in early childhood, the more it will be used by your students. It should become a daily resource as they learn to read and write. It is such a basic tool, yet it can be used in many ways by following the lead of the class.