While word walls most commonly grace elementary classrooms, these vocabulary learning displays can be equally effective in teaching complex terms and word relationships to high school students. By creating a word wall in your high school classroom you can both increase student interest in vocabulary excitement and improve overall student vocabulary retention.
Start out your word wall by filling it with student favorite words. After introducing the concept of the word wall, give students one sentence strip each, and ask them to write their favorite word on the provided strip. The word can be complex or simple, standard English or slang. Allow students to present their word to the class as they place it up on the wall. This activity will likely get students interested in the word wall as they will be eager to see which terms their peers prefer.
Use your word wall for SAT practice by filling it with standard SAT vocabulary. As you learn new SAT words in class, place them on your wall. Once you reach the end of your SAT vocabulary unit, quiz students on the meanings of all of the featured words. Your students will surely be more prepared for this all important test after the word wall activity.
Synonym Antonym Pairing
Pair word wall terms with synonyms and antonyms to turn one new word into three. Once you have created an extensive collection of words on the word wall, assign each student one of the featured terms. Give the student strips of colored paper, one on which to write an antonym, and the other a synonym. Provide students access to a thesaurus, and ask them to locate words to place on their strips, then place the strips next to their assigned word.
Word Wall Murals
Get creative with vocabulary through the creation of word wall murals. When time comes to take down the words that currently occupy your word wall, use the word removal as an opportunity for even more vocabulary practice. Divide students into groups, and allow each group to select several words featured on the wall. Give the students the strips containing their selected words, and ask them to create a mural that in some way depicts the meaning of the words. A group that had the word philatelist, chagrin and euphonium, for example, could create a painting of an unhappy stamp collector being serenaded by an individual playing a large brass instrument. Give each group a large sheet of paper on which to produce their creation. Hang each mural, and the words that inspired it, on a classroom wall.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.