Interactive, Visual or Language Chunk Word Wall

An Interactive Word Wall helps students build conceptual understandings between words and meanings using words, visuals, and graphics
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About This Strategy

An interactive word or language chunk wall is a wall in the classroom that provides an opportunity for students to authentically engage in learning and to make connections between terms and content in the classroom using words, visuals, and graphics. An interactive word wall displays prominent terms or vocabulary from the unit or lessons and can help students see patterns in words so that they can build their phonics skills and develop a deeper understanding of the terms. An interactive language chunk wall displays phrases or sentences aligned to parts of speech that the students are learning or working on. 

Implementation Steps for Interactive Word Wall

30 minutes
  1. Identify key terms, vocabulary words, or topics from the unit, lesson, or activity. These words should be content-area specific. Identifying these terms can be done during planning or can be done in real-time through a discussion with students.  

    • Optional: Provide students with a text or activity and have them identify or highlight what they feel are key topics from the text. Then through discussion, finalize the words that will be put on the interactive word wall.

    • Important Note: All of the key terms or vocabulary words do not have to be identified at the same time. Words can be added throughout the lesson, unit, or year.

  2. Create an interactive word wall. This can be a blank wall in the classroom, a section of the whiteboard, or a digital "wall" (see Tech Tools section). On the interactive word wall, display key terms, vocabulary, or topics from the unit, lesson, or activity. Make sure that the words are written large enough for students to see throughout the classroom. The words can be arranged in a graffiti style, in columns, or in rows based on the teacher/student preference. (See the use case below for a student-created interactive word wall).

    • Optional: Create images or visuals to accompany the term. Visuals can provide a great way for students to recall information and master vocabulary terms.

    • Optional: Create a portable word wall (see resource below) in which words are not on the walls but on index cards that are organized alphabetically and put on rings to be turned into a word book. For example, if a student is writing and is not sure how to spell the word "book", he can go to the "B" word book in order to find the term.

  3. Reference the interactive word wall as often as possible during activities, discussions, assignments, etc. Add to the word wall regularly as new lessons and terms are introduced to students. Encourage the use of the interactive word wall with students when they are working independently.

Implementation Steps for Student-Created Interactive Word Wall

Allow students to take ownership of the interactive word wall by identifying key terms and vocabulary that they pull from the units and lessons. Students could also create definitions and visual representations of the words or terms on the interactive word wall.

Implementation steps:

  1. Follow the same implementation steps listed above, but allow the students to pick and create the terms and visuals that will go on the interactive notebook. This may require some support or class discussions about what terms belong on the wall and represent the key pieces of information from the units or lessons.

  2. As students annotate a text, have them identify words that should be added to the word wall (see resource below).

 

Implementation Steps for Visual Word Wall

Visual Word Walls provide support to the development of a conceptual understanding of the presented content. Using visual words walls is a crucial support in developing, through repetition of use, the connections between understanding and the use of academic language.

 

Implementation Steps: 

  1. Unwrap with students the word and its visual when first adding it to the wall.
    • Note: When provided with "ready-made" word wall cards it is advisable to use them solely as an informational resource, and instead provide your own representation and if warranted, example.
  2. Continuously reference the wall as well as use the word with the context provided by the visual.

Implementation Steps for Interactive Language Chunk Wall

  1. Create an Interactive Language Chunk wall in your classroom that has categories for the parts of speech that the class will be studying. See resource section below for an example.
  2. While students are engaging in a Language Dive in whole class or small group instruction, identify a phrase or sentence that students will examine. To learn ore about a Language Dive, consult the Language Dive strategy in the BetterLesson lab. 
  3. After students engage in the Language Dive, put the phrase or sentence that students studied on the Language Chunk wall in order to demonstrate what students learned. 
  4. Have students refer to the Language Chunk wall regularly to refresh their learning of the part of speech or particular purpose for a phrase. 

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

Word Walls can provide excellent support for students with disabilities that impact their processing or memory by providing them both visual and verbal cues in regards to content. The word wall becomes a tool that students can reference anytime they need support related to  important vocabulary in class. 

Using Word Walls to help learners requires learning facilitators plan for the significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.) and reading skills required to utilize them.  In order to support learners with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Teachers should think carefully about the use of seating charts to ensure students with disabilities having easier access to refer to word walls. They should also frequently use and prompt all students to refer to word walls during instruction.

  2. Teachers should think carefully about the visual organization of word walls (use of colors, location in room, text size etc) to make them as accessible as possible for students with disabilities.  See “The In’s and Out’s of Word Walls in Special Ed” in the resource section below.

 

EL Modification

This strategy can support English Learners in practicing and using key content-specific vocabulary. Make sure the terms are large enough for the students to see. Consider allowing students the option to move towards the wall to look at the words whenever they need to reference the material. 

Coach Tips

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  • A Word Wall can be beautiful and meaningless at the same time. Let go of how pretty or neat it is and instead let the students be part of its creation. 
  • Remember to keep your Word Wall up-to-date. Remove and replace cards, rather than adding to it throughout the year.
    • Students who still struggle with some of the words that are to be removed can have a supplemental resource, such as an interactive vocabulary notebook and/or a library ring with index cards that are accurate representations of the words on the word wall. These are also two good additional strategies for all students to use in conjunction with a Word Wall.
  • Make it meaningful. Build excitement about adding to, and "retiring", words from the wall. 
  • Make it resonate. Use it yourself, be explicit in telling students to use it when writing and speaking, monitor for its use and point to it as a reminder to students to use when a word is absent from conversations, and celebrate its use by students.
  • Lead with concepts before language. For example, when introducing students to the use of a number line, the emphasis isn't on "number line", it is on what this model represents. Then we explicitly name it for students.
  • "Unwrap" a word or phrase that is being added to make sure all students understand what is represented. This is another argument for adding visual representations and examples to the cards.
  • Give students ownership. Rather than using pre-made cards, have students make the cards and use their thinking and examples to illustrate.
  • Make it visual! We remember visuals more than we remember words. Use representations, models, examples, diagrams, drawings, and so on to help students retain the meaning of a word.

Questions to Consider

  • How could you use interactive word wall activities to support students to identify previously mastered terms?

  • How could you modify this activity for the students in your classroom?

  • How could this strategy create greater student independence?

  • How could you use the word wall throughout the year in your lesson planning?

  • How would you structure classroom routines and rituals to develop students to independently use the word wall as a resource?

Tech Tools

Padlet

  • Padlet is a digital corkboard type tool that students can use to gather information or reflections. Teachers can easily access each students' Padlet with a shared link.

  • How this tech tool supports this strategy: Padlet supports this strategy by providing a digital platform for the teacher and students to make their interactive word wall digital by posting terms, images, videos, and even links to outsider resources on a digital white/cork board. Students can reference the Padlet board throughout the year.

Related Lessons

  • Explore the "Day 2 Interactive Word Wall Day" lesson by 7th grade Math teacher Malissa Thomas-St. Clair included in the resources below to see how Marissa has her students track their growth and understanding with content area vocabulary using an interactive word wall.
  • Explore the "Energy History"  lesson by 7th grade Science teacher Sydney Schuler included in the resources below to see how Sydney uses an interactive word wall to help students activate prior knowledge and recall information throughout the year.
  • Explore the "Word Wall Biotechnology Terms from A to Z"  lesson by 9th grade Science teacher Ericka Senegar-Mitchell included in the resources below to see how Ericka utilizes the student-created word wall throughout the year to improve science literacy and support students scientific conversations using appropriate vocabulary and terms.
  • Explore the "Introduction to Geometry part 2" lesson by 10th grade Math teacher Beth Menzie included in the resources below to see how Beth has students create terms using visual representations of terms for the interactive word wall.