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Teacher Corner: Using Word walls with your sitton resources

Word Walls can be an excellent teaching tool and resource to support your students across the communications curriculum. With a few ideas in mind, you can get the most mileage from your Sourcebook instruction and Word Wall.

Some basics about best practices with Word Walls:


Word walls should be built collaboratively:

Literacy leaders consistently emphasize that word walls should be built collaboratively with students. These word collections should serve as artifacts of literacy learning. Teachers should choose the type of word wall that best supports the developmental needs of their students.  Types of word walls might include those organized around spelling patterns, phonics, vocabulary, word analysis, the alphabet, concepts, and language conventions. The possibilities are endless!

Inviting students to color code words, illustrate a symbol for words, or even write out a situation explaining the meaning of a word will allow opportunities for student choice, engagement and ownership.


Word walls are always a work in progress:

Word walls should develop over time, as concepts are taught and developed in the classroom.

For example as sounds are introduced in a Kindergarten classroom, students may pick a word or name that begins with that sound to add to the wall. This wall will continually grow.

At a higher level, a 7th grade group exploring Greek roots might choose a word to represent the root being learned. They might underline the root and add a symbol or color that helps the group make associations to the root’s meaning. A collection or these roots built over time will be invaluable to students as they write.


Word walls should be part of the learning of spelling, vocabulary and language skills:

By building word walls in context, students have another strong association when they refer to them. Whether words come from a phonics lesson, a literature unit, a science chapter, or a writing assignment, they should come directly from the lesson. That way, students will be able to look at the words and associate them with the many other words that have a significant relationship to the one represented on the wall. For example, 8th graders studying the Latin root press might collect words using the root, adding pressure to the “Roots Word Wall.” Knowing the Latin root can help them understand other words made up of it.


Word walls provide opportunities to practice the real-world strategy of using a reference:

Isn’t it frustrating when students misspell word wall words that are clearly visible to them?
Literacy experts emphasize slowly building a collaborative word wall in the context of real language experiences. These best practices have proven to vastly increase the likelihood that students will actually use the word wall as a reference. Of course, students need to be taught how to use this reference. Model referring to the word wall in your own writing demonstrations. Hold students accountable for using the word wall as a spelling, vocabulary, or reading reference. Get them into the habit of referring to the word wall as they proofread and revise their writing.

Keep the above in mind as you follow these suggestions on how to use word walls as a complement to your Sitton Sourcebook. Remember, there is no one “right way” of teaching, so pick and choose the ideas that best meet the needs of the students in your classroom!


The word wall can reflect the Core Words and concepts grown in the Seeds for Sowing Skills:

Each concept taught in the Seeds for Sowing Skills section of your Sourcebook grows out of a grade level Core Word. For example, in the 2nd grade Sourcebook, the Core Word out is used to explore the different spelling patterns for the /ou/ sound such as ow. The lesson then expands on this idea to explore other sounds that are spelled more than one way (e.g., can/keep, gives/buzz, see/eat). After students have grasped the concept that there is often more than one way to make the same sound, the starting Core Word out can be added to the Word Wall. Now, out serves as a reference when thinking about different ways to make similar sounds.

Some teachers incorporate the Core Word Activity Cards into their word walls. The supplemental Core Word Activity Cards can be used as the actual words added to the word wall. Other teachers place the Core Word Activity Cards in accessible pocket charts or envelopes when new words are added to the wall. Then, students can take the cards to their desk to help with spelling or work on the supplemental activities on the back to extend or review important concepts.


The wall can display current Priority Words for proofreading:

Priority Words are the Core Words designated as “no excuse” words—ones that students are responsible for in everyday writing. We recommend that teachers add one to two Priority Words to this proofreading expectation at a time, aiming towards holding students accountable for the entire list of designated grade level Priority Words by the end of the year. While we recommend that students have their own copy of the grade level Priority Word list to refer to, many teachers  emphasize the correct spelling expectation  by adding each new Priority Word to the word wall.


Mix and Match Word Wall:

Some teachers prefer to build a word wall that incorporates both Core Words used in the Seeds for Sowing Skills and the Priority Words students are responsible for. Use different colored paper, sentence strips, or pens for each type of word. For example, some teachers display all Priority Words in red while Core Words are shown in black. Some add a symbol to remind students of the concept the word represents.


Concept Walls:

Some teachers prefer to change their word walls as their class evolves and the focus of literacy instruction shifts. For example, if your class is learning the various ways to make words plural, you may have a “plurals” word wall for the time being. As you move to a new concept, take down the “plurals” wall and make a new wall focused on another concept of interest. Some teachers create each concept wall on a shower curtain or large chart that students can access even when the “wall” is taken down. See this editions’ “Spring away from worn-out words” section for a fun example!