Think Literacy: Word Walls

The following is based on  information from


                Think Literacy is an initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Education. Think Literacy is a resource for teachers to help integrate the development of literacy skills into any subject area from kindergarten through grade 12. The Think Literacy resources are designed to enhance reading, writing and oral communication skills daily. Literacy must have a predominant position in all classes including English, science, art and math. Literacy should not and must not be isolated to the English classroom.

                One significant literacy strategy is the word wall. A word wall provides visual cues for students when learning or reviewing vocabulary for a unit of study. A word wall may be a chart posted on the wall or a section of the blackboard dedicated to new vocabulary. Whatever shape it takes, a word wall allows students to have a permanent reference for vocabulary, allowing them to review words daily, and ultimately improve their comprehension and spelling of subject-specific key words.

                There are a number of ways to approach constructing a word wall. The basic approach is for the teacher to preselect key terms and post the list when introducing the new unit. An alternative is to have students scan the text book at the beginning of a unit to identify words for the word wall. Some word walls will include the full definition and a picture to support visual learners. This can be particularly beneficial in a math or science class. Some other options include having students fully construct the class word wall and keep their own version in a designated section of their notebook.

                Research indicates that “students’ comprehension will increase by 33 percentile points when vocabulary instruction focuses on specific words important to the content they are reading” (Marzano, 2004). The word wall is a significant literacy strategy, with great benefits. It is one of many strategies proposed by Think Literacy.


 Stay tuned for next week’s blog post about more Think Literacy strategies.




Work Cited

Marzano, Robert J. Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004.


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