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Word Walls at Home!

By Dr. Felecia Nace, Family and Community Relations Office, New Jersey Department of Education

Many parents may have noticed a “word wall” displayed in their child’s classroom.  This is a collection of words that is usually placed on one particular wall in classrooms ranging from pre-K to grade 12.  Its main function is to reflect the vocabulary words that are learned in various subject areas across the curriculum throughout the school year.  This is done in an effort to help students remember the spelling and meanings of words and to bring clarity to topics.  Typically, challenging words that students encounter while learning new subject matter are defined by the student or teacher and then reviewed in class, discussed, and finally placed on the classroom word wall.

The word wall can be used to connect old knowledge to new knowledge as students move from one topic to the next.  The teacher will often refer to the words during future lessons throughout the school year, and challenge students to recall the definitions.  They may also refer to the words and connect them to various topics.  Often times, the teacher will encourage students to use these words during writing assignments.

Creating a word wall is easy and can be done in your home to further expand your child’s vocabulary.   A word wall is simple to maintain, it’s very economical, and it can be a powerful learning tool.  Below are some easy steps to follow.

Getting started:

  • Select a place in your home where the word wall will have room to grow.  It should be located somewhere in your home where the words will always be visible to your child.
  • Your child’s word wall should reflect a variety of subject matter such as Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, Technology, and day-to-day topics that arise during conversations with your child.
  • Children often ask the question: “What does that word mean?”  When they do, this can be a teachable moment.  When challenging words arise, find the word in the dictionary, discuss the meaning and uses of the word, and then have your child write the word on an index card or sturdy cut-out paper.  Finally, place the word on your child’s word wall.
  • Revisit the words along with your child on a regular basis.  For example, when your child has writing assignments, the word wall can be a great resource for improving the quality of writing.  You can also challenge your child to fit the words into everyday conversations.
  • Be sure to change the word wall each new school year.

One parent, Timitra Nicholson, of Neptune, NJ, created a word wall last year for her daughter, then a fifth grader.  She stated, “I have seen a real improvement in my daughter’s vocabulary and comprehension skills since using a word wall.”   She now has a word wall that reflects her daughter’s sixth-grade learning experiences.   You can also increase your child’s vocabulary at an amazing rate by adding root words, prefixes and suffixes to your child’s word wall.  Talk to your child regularly about the meanings of the beginning, middle and ending parts of words and word origins.  These are fun facts that children will enjoy learning about, and this will help students understand the meaning of new words without always relying on the dictionary.  Please refer to the free website used by teachers across the U.S: to learn more about word origins and other ways to build your child’s vocabulary successfully.   A child can never know too many words!