Word Wall

Rationale

The Word Wall teaching strategy creates a place in the classroom where students display the meanings of important ideas using words and pictures. As students encounter new vocabulary in a text or video, creating a word wall offers one way to help them comprehend and interpret ideas in the text. It is also an effective way for students keep track of new terms they’ve learned in a unit of study. Vocabulary terms that you might add to your class word wall include bystander, perpetrator, genocide, democracy, tolerance, nationalism, and prejudice.

Procedure

  1. Prepare the Space
    Select a place in the room for your word wall. Large sheets of poster paper or a dedicated whiteboard work well.
  2. Build Your Word Wall
    Before you begin reading a text, watching a video, or studying new material, assign students, possibly working in pairs, a term to define for the class word wall. You can also require students to present an image or graphic that represents the meaning of this word. Associating an image with a word is one way to help students remember definitions.
  3. Add to Your Word Wall
    New terms can be added to the word wall as needed. Students can also update the definitions on their own word walls as they develop a deeper understanding of key terms.

Variations

  • Multiple Word Walls: It’s possible to post several class word walls at once, which can be organized in a variety of ways. For example, it would be interesting to create a word wall of Nazi euphemisms, or bureaucratic language used by the Nazi government to avoid directly stating what was happening to Jews and other targeted groups. This is a good example of words taking on new meanings—extermination, for instance, had a very specific connotation when used by the Nazis.

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