Word Walls and Word Maps in English Language Learning

Target Learner Population

Grade 10 and 11 students at Chinese high school in the international department. 

Word Wall

We have a large portable white board on wheels in the class where we create a Word Wall for the vocabulary words my students need to learn for their final Chinese exams. We use the CET-4 Chinese Vocabulary (Green) Book for grade 10 and 11. This text is government mandated for all grade 10 and 11 learners. 

Each week they work on a word list of approximately 30-50 words. They must know the words in Chinese and English, along with the definitions. I work with them to develop context about the words, create lists of synonyms, antonyms, and help them with incorporating the words into grammatically correct sentence structure. 

We choose more difficult words to be added to the word wall at the end of each week to create a continuum of the most challenging words to work with in the following weeks and throughout each unit. As they become known we remove some to create space for additional words added each week.

I will created printouts of the vocabulary words and laminated them to stick up on the word wall. My students are provided with a laminated word and a sticky note at the beginning of class. They write synonyms, a definition in their own terms, and a sentence to describe the word.

As the semester goes on, we will practice using the most challenging words for games like Pictionary or even Charades and poster making activities to help build context and memory through languaging and visualization. They will also use these words for writing activities and incorporate the relevant words into other lessons with writing.

At the end of each week the students take spelling and vocabulary tests with their Chinese teachers using the words from the green book. Our activities are a great way for them to build their vocabulary in a fun and visual manner. 

Word Map

This video explains how to use a Word Map in your classroom:

My Reflection of Word Maps

I liked the activity as presented by the teacher in our video activity. I will modify this lesson style to use the CET-4 words and have them work in a similar fashion with the words that are most difficult. Some of the vocabulary words are generally known so we will have enough to work with for definitions, creating visuals, identifying synonyms and antonyms, and writing sentences with the words. We can pin up the visuals as well on our large wall at the back of the class as we can break it into a few sections to showcase their work. I will use the Word Wall and Word Maps as cues when I am giving lessons to incorporate the words into my explanations and activities for my students.

Further Reading

5 Total Physical Response (TPR) Activities

Word Walls in Spanish Instruction

Top Five Vocabulary Strategies for English Language Learners

Word Maps

Word Walls

Incidental Vocabulary Learning in Second Languages

Learning Strategies for Vocabulary Development

Why is vocabulary acquisition so important?

Vocabulary Development with ELLs

Published by suzannemarie

Living life to its fullest. I believe in courageously honouring my truth. I am a published author & educator who helps current and future leaders. Lover of meaningful conversations, coffee, food, and learning, I am a global citizen and spiritual badass by day and aspiring yogi by night.

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