The ‘add 5 words a week’ routine didn’t work for me because the board didn’t seem meaningful for the students. One year I had the idea of just making the word wall white paper with the letters on it.
What we did:
I told the students they could always ask me to add a word to the word wall. Sometimes I’d say to the class something like, “Class, so-and-so just asked me to add ‘the’ to the word wall. Do we write ‘the’ often?” “OK,” I’d say, “We have a new word wall word! Now whenever you want to write ‘the’, look up here!” I made it sound really great and exciting to have a new word up there.
After putting this routine into place (and adding some activities with high frequency words, which you can read about below) I noticed that students started using the word wall often. Students were excellent at determining whether we write a word often enough to put it on the word wall, which shows that they really understand the purpose of the wall.
Photo: grade 2 word wall
Photo: grade 1 word wall (beginning of year)
Practicing high-frequency words with the word wall:
Here is a great activity to help kids practice writing word wall words and to make sure they know what’s on the word wall. Sit the kids so they face the word wall. Ask them to write the numbers 1-5 on a paper. Then give clues like, “I’m thinking of a word that starts with w and rhymes with me” … As you go, write the answers on a small whiteboard. At the end have the students self-check.
Here is another activity the students can do using cards with your word wall words: