Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall, and “A Wandering Word Wall” FREEBIE!

Today I am going to explain how to teach kids to use a word wall, and about a really great writing tool that I like to use in my classroom called “The Wandering Word Wall.”  “The Wandering Word Wall” is a small, portable word wall that you print and mount on a file folder so that children can take it with them and use in any area of the classroom.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

But whether your word wall is large or small, if you don’t teach the children how to use it, you’ll probably find that it is just taking up valuable wall space in your classroom and that it serves little or no purpose!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

A portable word wall is a great tool to have, because often there are so many children in a classroom that they wind up trying to do writing assignments while sitting in desks that are a bit too far away from the real word wall, and so they can’t really see the words well enough to use it.  This makes them want to get up and walk around the room to check the spelling of a word, etc.  I think that kids tend to get more done when they stay in one spot and keep working without needing to get up and walk around, so the Wandering Word Wall solves that problem nicely!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

If you have been following my blog for several years, you may remember that I mentioned my Wandering Word Wall in a blog post before!  But since it is such a great tool, I wanted to give it it’s “own” blog post. To download a copy of my Wandering Word Wall, click here. 

HeidiSongs' Wandering Word Wall

One word of caution, though:  you will need to teach them how to use it and what it is, or it will just become a “tent” and a barrier to play with rather than a useful word wall as you intended!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

To teach the children to use the Wandering Word Walls, or ANY word wall in your classroom:

1.  Pass out the Wandering Word Walls, or point out to the children the real word wall in your classroom.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

2.  Show the children how the words are in alphabetical order.  Point to each letter and sing the ABC song as you point.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

3.  Tell the children to find and point to a word, such as the word “see.”  Explain that the word will be in the box with (or underneath, etc.) the letter S, since it starts with an S sound.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

4.  Have the class sing the ABC song again as they point to the letters until they find the S words, and then look for the word “see.”

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

5.  Ask the children to write the word “see” on a paper or on marker boards, etc.  If time is an issue, just have the children spell the word aloud, or write it in the air, or draw it on a friend’s back, etc.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

6.  Repeat this process with a few other words until the children understand how to use the word wall to help them find and spell words.  It’s like having a small spelling dictionary right there!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

To make a set, just download the word wall and glue it onto a file folder for each child.  Then laminate it, and you’re done!  I made two copies for each child, and put one three-hole punched copy into their binders so that they could have a word wall at home as well. 

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

Tip:  I collect my Wandering Word Walls that go in the children’s binders at the end of the year, so that I do not have to make them again the following year!  I doubt that any of the parents would get them out for the children the following year again anyway.


Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

We used the Wandering Word Wall for journaling when my kids were all spread out throughout the room and could not necessarily see the word wall from where they are seated. It worked out really well!

If you are unfamiliar with our Sing and Spell the Sight Word Songs, check out the video below!  They are also extremely effective in getting young children started writing because the songs and movements help kids memorize the spellings of so many of the high frequency words used in their writing.



I hope you enjoy this and find it useful.



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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. I love the traveling word wall. I was wondering what the children are laying on? They look like blue mats? Just a great idea to define their work space and keep them comfortable. Where did you purchase them?
    Thank you!

    • Thanks, Andrea! Those are actually Nap Mats that our school purchased back when we switched from half day to full day Kindergarten. I think that they probably came from Lakeshore or something. Most of the children only really needed to nap during the first couple of months of the year. After that, we started reading on them, and then writing on them, etc. They were very cozy! Unfortunately, they really got ruined in the storage container when our school went through a renovation and there was no room for them in the portable building that we were moved to. They went missing for almost a whole YEAR! And then once they were found, they were covered with gunk and dust- they were so bad that they could not even be cleaned! I was very sorry, because the children loved using them to lay on and read and write….

        • Andrea, Our school used to use these too for nap time. They are called Kinder Mats. We purchased ours from Walmart and Target. They are easily found at the beginning of the year. I hope you find them.

  2. Thank you! I don’t like that the children have to get up and go to the word wall when trying to find a word. I will be using this next year and years to come!

  3. Hi Heidi!

    I love all your ideas! Quick question- do you give these portable word walls as soon as you start teaching sight words? I see that you have all the word wall words on the document- but you don’t teach them all at once. Just wondering if kids get confused.

    • Hi,
      Great question!
      No, I do not give them out as soon as I start teaching sight words; I wait until the third trimester because that is when we start doing independent journaling. Earlier in the year, the children are sitting with me at my writing table and are right in front of my real word wall, so they have no need of the portable word wall. But when the kids are spread out all over the room and can’t necessarily see the real word wall from where they are sitting, THAT’s when I give them the portable word wall! I hope that helps.


  4. I have never had success using a Word Wall because either the children can’t figure out what the words say (their reading skills are too low) or the word they want isn’t on the wall. How do you decide which words to include anyhow? And what do you say to the kids who need help with a word that isn’t on the wall? I’ve tried to implement WW every year because I feel like I should, but I always end up giving up after a few months. I just have my kids “say the word slowly and write the sounds you hear” for everything. Thoughts?

    • Hi, Monika!
      When I taught K, I used to only put the words on the wall as we learned them. Also, only the sight words (high frequency words) went on the word wall. Nothing else went on it. In the past, I used to put any new word the children wanted me to spell on the word wall, and the whole wall got way too busy and confusing. If you limit it to just the words that the kids need to LEARN and pass for their high frequency word tests, then you have it narrowed down. Does your district give you a list to test the kids on? Use that list for your word wall. But if it’s a word that the kids can sound out, you probably don’t need to put it up there unless you are teaching KINDERGARTEN or PRE-K- and it’s on your high frequency word list. First graders should be able to figure it out, unless you have a rather remedial group, I think.

      When I do shared writing with my class, I SHOW them HOW to use the word wall to find the words they want to spell. We sing the spelling songs that we know for the word we are looking for, and I choose a child to find the word on the word wall while we sing it. Since we are spelling as we sing, that helps the child find it the word on the wall. The child points to it, and then I pretend to copy it off the wall as he points. So basically, I MODEL HOW to use the word wall- and that’s how they learn to use it and find the words that they need. The sight word songs we use also help a lot!

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