Intermediate Word Walls

As September rolls around it’s important to setup your classroom with word learning in mind. The easiest way to foster a word conscious environment is to create a word wall in your classroom. Many primary teachers use word walls to display sight words that students are learning and trying to remember. Although upper elementary teachers can do the same, there are more effective ways to use your word wall with older students.

Here are some great ways to use word walls in your upper elementary classroom:

  • High-utility word wall: consists of words that stay on the word wall all year. These words are used frequently in your individual classroom. 
  • Topical word wall: consists of words related to a theme, text, or unit of study. The These words change throughout the course of the school year.
  • Writing word wall: consists of words that students can incorporate into their writing. This could be transition words, compare-contrast words, etc. These words should change dependent on the genre of writing occurring in the classroom. 
  • Character Trait word wall: consists of developmentally appropriate character trait words. These words should be used to not only describe characters in the literature being read in the classroom, but also used to describe the personalities of one another. 

Last year I chose to work with my students to create a character trait word wall. These are the words we learned from September to June!


(The red words are academic words we added when preparing for SBAC testing)

How to get started – why reinvent the wheel? Save yourself some time with these easy tips:

1. I bought a Word Wall template for $5 from Teachers Pay Teachers (created by Catherine Reed). Not only does it provide an adorable theme for your core letters, but it also gives you word suggestions. There is also a place to type in words of your choice. I printed the document and then copied the letters onto yellow card stock. I didn’t use all of Catherine’s words but the words I did use I copied onto light blue card stock.

2. Choose the words you want to teach for the month. It takes some time to decide which words fit best with the units you are teaching. Choose 4-5 core words at the beginning of the month and have them printed and ready to go. This will help make lesson planning easier on Monday morning! You will already have your words ready to hang up for the next 4 weeks. This is much easier than trying to recreate the cardstock designs every week.

3.  To begin the school year I will be using Patrick Manyak’s list of character trait words per grade level. These are the perfect starting point!

What are some ways you use a word wall in your classroom? Please comment with ideas to share!

Sources used for this post: Inside Words by Janet Allen (2007)

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