Word Wall

One area of teaching English I’ve always struggled with is vocabulary. Somehow, the idea of giving kids a list of vocabulary words, even from a text we’re reading, and giving a quiz at the end of the week never seemed very authentic to me. I’ve used Isabel Beck a lot in my practice when choosing the words, but I always feel that the words are gone from the kids’ heads at the end of the week. Also, the constant vocabulary instruction sometimes interrupts the flow of a novel we’re reading.

So this is what I came up with. My seventh graders are reading Warriors Don’t Cry which has tons of words which will be unfamiliar to them. There’s so much other good reading comprehension stuff in there and it’s a long book so I didn’t want to spend too much time on vocabulary. Sometimes you have to let things go, you know?  I came up with this word wall idea.

How it works is this. My students have a reading assignment. When they read, I have them find about four unfamiliar words and fill out a personal dictionary sheet like this, similar to a word map.

Then they come to class and fill out a word card on one of their words.


They share the word with the class and it goes on the word wall. They get extra points in their writing if they use a word wall word or a personal dictionary word in their writing.


It’s definitely not perfect. Some students pick pretty basic words so they don’t have to look them up. They all struggle when the exact form of their word isn’t in the dictionary. (i.e. looking up determine instead of determined) And I still need to encourage them to use the words in their writing more. Maybe a writing exercise? I know they’re just getting introduced to the words so they won’t be committed to memory. Are there other ideas out there for teaching vocabulary?