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Resources and Ideas » Walls That Teach-Using Anchor Charts & Word Walls » Anchor Charts

Anchor Charts Anchor Charts
Anchor charts are tools for students to use during Writers' Workshop and aid students in remembering procedures and expectations. 


Anchor Charts should be made with the students and added to throughout the year.  Teachers may remove the charts when no longer needed.


Anchor charts need to be posted in the classroom where they are easily accessible to students.

These pictures were taken from Grenada Middle School's Walls That Teach:

Attached you will find examples of
anchor charts used by several teachers. 

 Here are a couple tips to remember

  • Words should be 2 inches high in a standard font, categorized in a linear fashion.
  • You should only place words on the word wall as you teach them.  Choose only the words that you REALLY want your students to learn (Tier 3 words are bolded in the SC Standards). Try not to add more than ten each week.  You can choose words from the book you are reading to your students, from words that students ask you as they read, or from your basal or other textbook (Tier 2 Words). Since you are only adding a few, choose carefully.  An example of Tier 2 words would be vocabulary from a text you are about to introduce.

  • Your word wall should change almost daily.  When you feel students have a word in their knowledge bank, you might write it on an index card and keep it for a review game later. Your word wall should build over time.  Put Tier 3 words that you are introducing on the agenda board and as you work with them transfer them to the word wall.  Don’t make this “one more thing to do." It should fit seamlessly into your regular day.

Activities with vocabulary

Illustrate the words. Show pictures or video clips that demonstrate the meaning of a word. Have students draw and label something illustrating the meaning of the word. This is not limited to concrete nouns -- a grim expression, a contemplative person or absurd conduct can also be drawn. The labels explain how the word and drawing fit. Drawing skills are not important; stick figures with accurate labels can succinctly express an idea as well as finely crafted caricatures. The infamous "flashcards" can be made more meaningful with illustrations, as well. Be sure, though, that the student doesn't replace an abstract idea with a concrete example of it. This can be done by showing different ways that the idea is expressed and having the students discover what makes them valid illustrations -- for instance, could news be grim? How?

Play "Quick Draw.” This doesn't have to be competitive, but it can be. See how quickly students can convey the essence of a words meaning on the board -- without words. This works especially well with words describing visual concepts, like many geography terms. Again, make sure students don't oversimplify things -- if you play this game repeatedly, make sure the students are using different ways to draw the words.

Play "vocabulary charades." Have students draw a word from a hat and act it out.

Give credit for finding the word used in the real world. Provide extra credit if a student hears or sees a vocabulary word anywhere outside of the vocabulary exercises. To get the points, the student has to write down the word, what it means, and where s/he heard it. Sometimes the students will purposely use the words so someone can say they heard it -- which just means they are incorporating it into their oral vocabularies. You can also find them online: go to a search engine that searches the news and type in the word. You'll find it in the headlines all over the world.

Use the words yourself. That prominently posted list can be your cue to slip words into other class work or discussions. Students may not even need the incentive of extra credit to start listening for them.

Have students answer questions that use the words. For example: "What are three ways you could tell a person had just received grim news?" "What are three things an impertinent person might say?" "What are three things that would disconcert you?" Doing this while the student has the meaning available gives the opportunity to process the meaning instead of guessing at an answer.

Have students generate examples and non-examples for words. This can be done with visual or kinesthetic illustrations as well as verbal descriptions. Have students explain whether something is a good example of a word or not, and why they think so. For most groups, this activity should be practiced with familiar, concrete words first. It can be used to lay a solid foundation for "comparing and contrasting" and defending ideas in essays, especially if you encourage the students to use precise language and good sentences.

When you ask students to generate examples, if someone comes up with a "wrong" answer, it can be used as "a good non-example" to help clarify the meaning of a word. Remind students that learning is not about proving what you already know, but about asking questions to change what you don't know into what you do know.

Use "fill in the blank" exercises before you expect the students to use the words in sentences themselves. This is also a good way to test students, or to make the transition between working with the definitions available and recalling what the words mean on their own. Have a word bank with five vocabulary words and five sentences with blanks, and have the students decide which word goes in which blank. Your challenge will be constructing sentences which only match with one word, so small groups of words are better. These exercises are also opportunities for you to give a wider scope to a word, and discuss how that word fits into a sentence that the students might not have considered.

Compose with the words. Only after a student has heard and read a word used correctly many times should s/he be expected to compose something original with the word. This can be a fun class activity, though, once a sizable list has accumulated. Students can take turns picking words from the list to add a sentence to an ongoing story - students will get a chance to hear the words they weren't sure of used by other students, and the sentences can be revised if the words are not used correctly. Eventually, students may enjoy composing absurd tales using the words.



For Elementary, Middle, and High Schools


A word wall is an interactive collection of words or parts of words used to teach vocabulary, spelling, letter-sound correspondence, and more. Word walls are not simply décor; they are works in progress designed to promote group learning.

Words should be added to the wall as they are encountered in learning and should be removed (or moved to a review board) as they become part of the student’s knowledge bank.

Here are some examples of word walls (click to see larger image)



High School French chapter contains story about cat. Students colored cats, teacher printed chapter vocabulary words and taped one on each cat. Cats were laminated and put on board four or five at a time as students learned them.



A bulletin board is an easily accessible place for a word wall.



Use your cabinet doors.



Words can be categorized on the wall.



After you remove a word from the word wall, you can add it to a caterpillar at the top of your wall for future reference.



Out of wall space?

Even your ceiling can be a word wall! Using magnets made this wall easy to change.



If you use chart paper and your word wall gets too full, move the chart paper to a different location and start a new word wall.



Color coding the word wall will be a reminder to change the word wall every few weeks. Remove words they have mastered and keep the ones you feel still need to be practiced.



Putting your word wall on your door reminds you to review the words as students line up to leave the room. If you only review two words each time, that helps!



Words can be written on cards or shapes.




Word walls don't have to be fancy. Handwritten walls work just as well as typed ones!



You can use space high on the wall to put words that have been taken off the main word wall.



Large bulletin board word walls can be used to collect words that have been removed from the smaller word wall.



This is a word wall especially made for overused words. Students write alternative words on cards and put them in the pockets. This is a great tool to use during writing to improve word choice.



This word wall is in the school hallway to promote student awareness of the words they have studied this year. However, most word walls would not be cumulative. They should be posted around a unit or theme and then removed when the class moves on to other topics.



This word wall is placed near the calendar to be used each morning during the morning routine. This ensures that the students practice the words at least once a day.



This word wall is made by using magnet words and letters on the dry erase board.




Chart paper makes an easy word wall. It can be cut apart as words are removed, or the words that still need to be reviewed can be added to the new chart.



Project boards make great word walls that can be used in literacy stations. On this wall, words are pinned on for the week. After they are practiced, they are put in the correct pocket to be reviewed or to be used in center activities.



You can have several word walls in your room. One of walls in this teacher's room contains the key words from her phonics lessons for the week.



A pocket added to the wall can be used to store learned words for students to reference as needed.



Pocket charts are an easy way to manage words. Another option would be to have fewer words in the pockets and use the chart as a literacy station at which the students match synonyms or antonyms for the words.



This word wall is put on cabinet doors and contains words that students have mastered. A smaller wall with the current list of words that are being studied would also be beneficial. Those words could then be moved to this larger wall when they were mastered.



As students master words, the words are caught in the net of new words!



This word wall is easily changable because the words are paperclipped to a strip under the letter of the alphabet.



Think TALL when you are running out of space!



This is another way to collect words that the students have mastered.



This wall has three parts. The center section is for the words students are currently studying. After words are mastered, they are added to one of the adjacent word walls.



After words are removed from the current word wall, they are added to the word pocket center. Students can refer to these words in their writing, or this can be used for a literacy station.



Students can design your Word Wall.



Word are clustered by commonalities on this Word Wall.



After the class discusses the Vocabulary Word For The Day, it is added to the Word Wall.



Words are posted individually on this Word Wall.



Words hang on a clothesline for display.



A dry erase board can be used to display your Word Wall.



Students use their creativity to display words on walls and cabinets.



Words can be placed randomly on the wall as well as in chart form.



A computer was used to design this wall of accounting terms.



Posting words on pieces of butcher paper make them easy to move or cover during testing.



Word Walls are valuable in content area classrooms.


Divide a bulletin board into three word walls, especially if you teach three different classes.




Susan Jones has a lot of ideas on teaching vocabulary (below).  She has a great website to visit:



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