A word wall is pretty much what it sounds like — a classroom wall reserved for a word display. Most teachers associate word walls with emergent readers, but word walls are no longer just the stuff of elementary schools. Word walls can be used effectively to help students at all levels to learn vocabulary.

Probably the most important rule of the word wall is that it should not be simply viewed as an enlarged vocabulary list that has been prominently posted on a wall. It's an interactive work in progress; each word is placed on the wall as it is explicitly taught. Words placed on a word wall should be chosen carefully, limited in number (only 5-10 per week), and then incorporated into classroom lessons and into students' reading and writing. Words can be added to the wall as they are encountered in class reading, as they come up in class discussion, or as students discover them on their own. And once these "curated" words make it to the wall, they should not reside there statically; they should be used as an interactive reference point by teachers and their students.

Now — how can the Visual Thesaurus help you spice up your lackluster word wall? Choose (or have your students choose) a few word-wall-worthy words from a class reading assignment, look the words up in the Visual Thesaurus search box, and then add the Visual Thesaurus word displays for these words onto your word wall. (To print a word display, click on the "PRINT" button on the toolbar. To see printer and page orientation options before printing, press the "Shift" key when you click the print button.)

Care to show off your classroom's word wall? E-mail us a photograph of your word wall and we'll not only display it on our site, we?ll send you a Visual Thesaurus goody to show our appreciation!

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Georgia Scurletis is Director of Curriculum for the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. Before coming to Thinkmap, she spent 18 years as a curriculum writer and classroom teacher. Georgia has written curriculum materials for a variety of Web sites (WGBH, The New York Times Learning Network, Edsitement) and various school districts. While teaching high school English in Brooklyn, she was a recipient of the New York State English Council's Educators of Excellence Award, the Brooklyn High Schools' Recognition Award, and The New York Times' Teachers Who Make a Difference Award. Click here to read more articles by Georgia Scurletis.

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Comments from our users:

Thursday March 5th 2009, 9:44 AM
Comment by: Darla L. (Columbus, OH)
I LOVE this idea! I am a volunteer at Linden STEM Academy in Columbus, OH where I'm helping students 'publish' their stories in the school library. I use VT almost daily at work in my role as a communications consultant and I've started my own word wall. Since my work is part of a project team that involves changing the corporate culture and building consistency around the processes we create, the words on my wall are: change, manage, build, standard and consistent. I've been sharing the VT link with my coworkers who have children because I think it's a great teaching tool. I plan to use it at Linden to help students think about new ways of saying things as they write their stories. Maybe we'll even create a word wall!
Tuesday March 10th 2009, 10:14 AM
Comment by: anna S. (South Africa)Top 10 Commenter
I've always wanted to do this! I'm going to use magnets (just ordered them) and a white board to put the words up. It'll be perfect as we read To Kill a Mockingbird. Thanks for getting me in gear with the Word Wall.

Another thing I do is sometimes I draw a big tombstone on the board and put DEAD WORDS in it.
A Lot

These are words I will not let them use in their writing.Look on VT and find better words!

Mrs. H
Wednesday March 11th 2009, 11:43 AM
Comment by: anna S. (South Africa)Top 10 Commenter
That is a great idea--to devote some wall space for the "dead words"!
Sunday April 5th 2009, 3:15 PM
Comment by: David F.
If you have a SmartBoard and SmartIdea or similar technology, you can develop a word wall without a wall...mine are covered with with posters, buttons and other eyecatchers appropriate to a history classroom. Until I came upon this article, I wrote words on my white board, only to have them evanesce into the ether or a student word list, either way out of mind when the period ended. Having the Visual Thesaurus to play with has lent some staying power to my efforts to improve on texting vocabulary.
Sunday April 5th 2009, 5:14 PM
Comment by: Diana W.
I was thrilled when I saw your suggestion for a DEAD WORD Wall! When I write these same words and others, they seem to be peppered throughout my narrative. I use the Visual Thesaurus to find alternatives frequently. As you are a teacher, I would like to know if you would be willing to supply a list of ALL the common, overused words which you find regularly and would designate to the DEAD WALL. I am 57 years old, I have two post graduate degrees yet I find that my writing skills are seriously lacking. Many Thanks.

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