Teachers carefully craft classroom walls to dazzle and sparkle as well as engage and inspire. Student work, alphabet charts, and number lines transform walls into learning-enhancing tools. One specific wall serves to build vocabulary and word knowledge: the word wall. Word walls create a print-rich environment by featuring words that students are currently learning. All students benefit from word walls, but they can be particularly helpful for English Language Learners (ELLs). Take a look at these tips and tricks for creating word walls that work for ELLs!

  • Keep it Current  Word walls should be updated on a regular basis. Unfamiliar words may come up during read alouds or conversation. Make those moments teachable by tacking up the new word on the wall. Also add words when you introduce new topics.
  • Post Pictures – Make sure to post pictures of words when possible. Visuals help ELLs make connections in their new language.
  • Interact with It Rethink how to use the perfectly pinned words on your wall. Engage students in a learning game with words on display. Turn off the lights and shine over sight words with a flashlight. Students will have fun reading the lit up word. Words don’t need to stay stapled on a wall. Make words detachable so students can easily access them during writing activities. Students can even sort word cards by categories, such as people, place, or things.  
  • Include Cognates Cognates are key for ELLs, as they are words in two languages that sound alike and share similar definitions. Set up a space in your class for a cognate word wall. Hang up the words in English as well as the students’ home language, to provide a link between the two. Use differently colored sentence strips to signify the different languages. For example, write English cognates on green sentence strips, then jot down the Spanish, French, or other language equivalent on yellow sentence strips. Invite students to add cognates that they may find while reading.
  • Showcase Content-Specific Words Create content-specific word walls for math, social studies, or science. Display photographs or illustrations of the vocabulary words to provide concrete examples of the terms. Ask students to contribute to words walls with their own illustrations of the words.
  • Share Synonyms and Antonyms Comparing and contrasting words helps ELL students make connections, categorize concepts, and deepen word knowledge. Feature synonyms and antonyms around the room to help students identify similar words and opposites.

Use these tips to make the most out of your word wall for all your students! Remember, word walls are a resource, so use them as such!

For more ELL best practices and supplemental tools visit VocabularySpellingCity!

Create Word Walls that Work for ELLs

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