My Word Wall Doesn't Look Like the Others- And That's Okay

A Word Wall is a "must have" in any elementary school classroom. Although they vary in color and style, it's safe to say I've seen one displayed in every primary classroom I've visited.

My classroom is no exception.

Buuuuut...

Word Wall

Yup. That's my word wall. I know what you're thinking. You are wondering- Why is it so small? Where are the letters of the alphabet?! Why are some of the words out of alphabetical order?

My Word Wall does not look like the others and that is okay!
  • My Word Wall isn't tremendous because I think it's too overwhelming for children to have more than this amount of words with this kind of set up. Also, this is all I have space for on my pocket chart.
  • The most noticeable difference between my word wall and others is the lack of letters identifying each group of words. Again- the reason is that I simply do not have space to put each letter up. I'd have no room for the words!
  • As for a couple of the words being out of order- that is because we are constantly pulling words down and putting them back up- sometimes things get mixed up in the shuffle. But they always get corrected (eventually). Also, the last column of the Word Wall (after your) includes newly introduced sight words, which get moved into alphabetical order after we spend a week on them.
With so many word cards, it's important for me to stay organized. I keep the cards in basket with little dividers so I can find what I need quickly and easily.


I LOVE using a pocket chart as my Word Wall. Even though it limits the space I have to work with, it is worth it. It allows for easy interaction throughout our day! Despite the differences between my word wall and others' word walls, it still WORKS. My students are fantastic at reading, writing, and spelling sight words!


Here are some reasons my Word Wall works despite its unusual size and organization:
  • We read the Word Wall EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It is part of our morning routine. The kids start on the first word and read the words chorally, moving down each column, pausing before starting a new column. It only takes a minute or two and it helps reinforce not only how to read the words, but how to identify where the words are on the chart. (This is why we aren't missing the letter of the alphabet- we don't need them!)
  • We spend five minutes every day going over newly introduced sight words (three to five a week). We read, spell, and "sky write" them. We don't need to spend more time than this during the school day because it is being reinforced every day.
  • Students read Weekly Review Lists nightly at home with their parents. These lists include words with the specific sound/spelling taught the previous week as well as a list of mixed new/old sight words. This is done in order to improve automaticity and fluency. I will post more about this another time.
  • Our spelling word tests include sight words ONLY. That's right. However- I do test my students on encoding (breaking apart words to spell them correctly) words weekly, but they do not study for those and I do not call them "Spelling Tests". Our spelling tests are only sight words. Read below for more information about my spelling system.
  • The words on the wall are constantly changing. As new words are added, the ones my students have mastered are removed. I encourage my students to take ownership of the Word Wall by asking which words they think are too easy. If I agree- it comes down. If I don't agree, I say something like "Wow! I'm so happy to hear you think that word is easy! Some of our friends are still having trouble with that one, though- so we are going to keep it up for right now."
  • We play games with the Word Wall. One of my favorite games is called "Swat". Two children go up to the word wall with fly swatters in their hands. I give them a word, and their goal is to "swat" the word before the other person. It's simple, but the kids absolutely love it!
I have been teaching sight words this way for eight years now and this works great for me and my students!

Reading sight words is hard enough for first graders- when it comes to spelling, forget about it! This is why I use sight words as my spelling words. I believe a child should be able to encode words like "cat" off the cuff, but words like "the" cannot be sounded out. Many sight words must just be memorized, which is why I use them as spelling words my kids can study. I will be posting more about my spelling system at a later date. For now- check out the packet I use with my students for sight word spelling below! I use these pages as homework assignments every day. It's available on Teacher's Pay Teachers now!

How do you use your Word Wall in your classroom? 

8 comments:

  1. Great sight word ideas! I think the most important thing isn't the look but the consistent use of the word wall.

    My Bright Blue House

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment! I agree- I love beautiful things, but I think it's more important my word wall be functional.

      Thanks for visiting!

      Melissa

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  2. Thanks for sharing this! A second grade teacher at my school has a "non-traditional" word wall as well due to lack of space and it works well for her and her kids. You're so right - it is definitely more about how we use our word walls than what they look like. Love the ideas about taking mastered words down and playing games with the word wall. I will be trying to do more of that this year. :)

    Kristi
    Teaching in the Tropics

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    1. Kristi,

      Thank you for visiting and commenting! "Swat" is definitely a big hit with my class every year- who would have thought a fly swatter could be so much fun?

      Thanks again!
      Melissa

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  3. Love your ideas! Half my word wall is behind a door, UGH! Being space-challenged is not fun. Thanks for the great ideas!

    First Grade Frame of Mind

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I feel your pain! I just saw a periscope earlier of a teacher giving a tour of her classroom... it was HUGE! It must be nice... ::sigh:: At least we find a way to make it work! :)

      Melissa

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  4. Hi! What a great post- and great job daring to be different! I have always had two word "walls"... the "traditional one" and something more interactive, but its been a mess haha. I'm moving into a new room this year without the big spot for a standard word wall... I may just have to "borrow" your idea! Thanks ;) TeacherMotherWifeLife

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    1. Lindsey,

      Thank you for your comment! I'm addicted to Pinterest, and if I could- I would use every idea I see and love! Planning classroom setup and decor involves some hard decision making! ;) In the end we need to do what we can, and what is best for our students.

      Thanks for visiting!
      Melissa

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