February 23, 2014

Interactive Word Walls: An Incredible Tool for Science

Word walls are really popular in elementary classrooms. I had a traditional word wall for a few years, like the one below. It's supposed to help with spelling, but I soon realized that nobody used it. So a few years ago I freed up that wall for something more useful.
Traditional word wall
Then, in November, I read an article in Science and Children called "Interactive Word Walls" by Julie Jackson and Rose Narvaez. It's not a great title, but it came with an awesome picture:

I was inspired! 

An interactive word wall takes key terms and explores those terms through words, drawings, diagrams, and physical objects. It's interactive because the students are making all the decisions about what to write, draw, and put on the wall. They bring in all the items and help the teacher decide what to include and where it goes.


Logistics: The example in the photo above has the word wall on a dry erase board. Here's an example from the article that uses a bulletin board:
I didn't have any free dry erase or bulletin boards, so I used the cabinet faces in my classroom. To create the surfaces, I opted to laminate white poster board. That way we can write on the board with wet-erase marker so the boards will be easy to clean and set-up for the next collection of words.

How To Make It Happen in Your Classroom:
1. Determine key vocabulary for the chosen topic.
The word wall above is for Ecosystems. The vocabulary words we used were: biotic, abiotic, producer, consumer, decomposer, aquatic, terrestrial, and food web
2. As you study each term's information, brainstorm ideas with the class for the wall.
3. Invite students to bring items to class.
I usually use this as a homework assignment. The items might be actual things, drawings, print-outs, or photos. In the example below there is a bag of water, a stick, toy animals, a drawing of water plants, stickers, postcards, a drawing of the sun, and a student-made food web diagram.

4. Facilitate a whole-class discussion about each item, allowing the students to figure out where it goes and why.

My students and I love our Interactive Word Wall. Now, we have something that is useful because it supports meaning more than just spelling.

~ Amanda


  1. Love your interactive word walls!! I'd like to be in your class. You do good work in the classroom and on your blogs. Looking foward to more from you -

    1. Thanks, Mary! We have a great time learning in my classroom :)

  2. I have the same issue as you---no free white board or bulletin board but lots of cabinets. I'm going to laminate white board paper too. Thank you!

    1. Glad to help! Creative use of materials is something we're all dealing with.