Sound walls, word walls … do you use them and what’s the difference? You may be more familiar with word walls, but sound walls are gaining attention as a useful teaching tool. If you don’t have either, we have tips for setting up sound walls. We also have ideas for converting word walls to sound walls—and how to use sound walls once you have them set up.
Word walls often use high frequency words or target spelling words, listed by spelling. That means if you add the word write it would go under W, while the word right would go under R.
Sound walls, like word walls, feature words students are learning, but they are organized by sound. That means write and right would both go under R for their starting sound. You could also include them both in a section focused on the long I sound. With this type of organization, students start to focus on sounds and see the different ways of spelling. They are able to use the sounds as a sorter as they use the sound wall.
Set up sound walls
Done well, sound walls and word walls vary by more than just how words are organized. Sound walls should be actively used in the instruction of phonemes. In addition to the sound, anchor words, and pictures of words, sound walls often include pictures of the mouth (you can take pictures of students) saying each sound.
As you teach the sounds, you work with students to pay attention to mouth shape and how different sounds are made with the mouth and throat. This is key, and one of the main features of sound walls—you really lead with the sounds.
If you already have a word wall, you’ll need to rethink what’s on it, what phonemes you are teaching, and what words will go with it.
To help create sound walls or word walls, you can use the posters and word cards in many of my phonics packs, such as this free sample for the Oy sound. Just fill in your details below to grab it now.
Use sound walls and word walls
Whether you use sound walls or word walls, don’t overload them. Add a few new words a week at most. Too many words can become overwhelming or make it hard for students to use the wall.
Use the wall regularly in practice. You can use word wall words in clapping or chanting games for practice. You can play guessing games, giving clues about a word on the word wall and have students find it. Or have students find words with something in common (both start with /b/ or both have a long e sound).
Refer to sound walls or word walls frequently so that students get used to using them in their daily practice.
For more tools to build your sound walls or word walls, you can use the posters and word cards in these phonics packs:
These packs come with the posters and word cards that you can use on sound walls or word walls, and they also include multiple practice activities, such as:
- Segmenting sounds in a word
- Sorting words by spelling pattern
- Cut and paste activities
- Sentence writing using words with the focus sound
- Reading fluency
- Vocabulary building
- Sorting by syllables
- Synonyms and antonyms
- 4 interactive games
- Cootie catchers
More phonemes are coming soon, including: /ow/, /or/, /air/, /s/, /u/, /n/!