Using Word Walls in Science

Making Vocab Connections

Word walls used to be a term heard only in elementary schools.  Nowadays it is more common that teachers of all grade levels are finding them effective and worthwhile for their students to develop and reinforce content area vocabulary.

In 2011, The National Research Council (NRC) developed A Framework for K-12 Science Education which identified practices of science and engineering that were essential for all students to learn.  One of the practices involved students obtaining, evaluating and communicating information.  It states:

Any education in science and engineering needs to develop students’ ability to read and produce domain-specific text. As such, every science or engineering lesson is in part a language lesson, particularly reading and producing the genres of texts that are intrinsic to science and engineering. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 76)

By using a word wall in the science classroom, the teacher increases access to domain-specific text and can refer the students to it often.  Teachers should have students interact with the word wall to help develop concepts and demonstrate content mastery.  This can occur by adding arrows to show sequence, or group words together by categories.  By interacting with the word wall often, students will start making connections between the current science concepts they are learning as well as previously learned science topics. 

Visual Vocabulary

It’s important when making word walls that a picture or illustration is used alongside the vocabulary term to serve as a visual cue.  This is especially important to your English language learners who have been shown to benefit from increased exposure to print and language.

Limited Space?  Get Creative!

Sometimes wall space is limited in the classroom, forcing teachers to get creative.  One of the most unused real estate in the classroom is the ceiling – start building your students vocabulary above their heads.  At least when all faces are turned toward the sky, you’ll have immediate feedback that the word “ceiling” is in use. 

Using the back of the classroom door or fronts of cabinets will still allow students to see and interact with the scientific terminology.  However, words will need to be changed between each chapter or unit, so make it easy on yourself and place Velcro strips on surface and backs of cards for clean and easy exchange.

Download my FREE Nature of Science Word Wall to help you get started increasing your students' use of science vocabulary.  
Click to download

Looking for more?  Check out my Physical Science Word Wall Bundle with over 240 words to use throughout the school year.



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