Using Thematic Word Walls for Writing in Kindergarten and First Grade

If you teach kindergarten or first grade, you know what it’s like to be asked how to spell a word over and over. . . and over again.

You likely have some sort of word wall or sound wall on display in your classroom. We often use these “walls” to help students learn sounds or spelling, but they can also be a great tool for helping with vocabulary and writing.

And they can eliminate the need for students to ask you how to spell a word they’ll be writing often.

A thematic word wall is a list of words that share a common theme or topic. You can make them for subject areas, seasonal topics, or common themes students write about.

Word walls are a staple in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. But they're not only great for sight words or phonics; they can also be used for writing and vocabulary! This post will show you so many different ways to use thematic word walls with your students for writing, centers, and even games. They are especially great for English Language Learners. I also show you how to make your own word walls that your kids can reference for spelling, writing ideas, and more. Download the freebie, too!

Benefits for Beginning Writers

These come in so handy for emergent writers, helping them become more independent during your writing block.

Thematic word walls help beginning writers in many ways:

  • Brainstorming– This helped cut down the time a student spent thinking of a writing idea and allowed them to get write to work!
  • Details– A word wall can help students think of more details to add.
  • Spelling– Having a bank of words on a topic in one place cuts down on interruptions asking how to spell a word and helps them become independent spellers.
  • Vocabulary– Pictures are especially helpful for students who are learning English.

HOW TO USE Thematic Word Walls IN THE CLASSROOM

I love the versatility of word walls. They can be used whole group, small group, or independently. Here are some ways to use them in your classroom:

Whole-Group

Display the word wall on your whiteboard so it’s visible to all students in the room. Read the words and discuss their meanings. Then, share ideas of what to write, have students tell their stories/ writing ideas to a partner, then go off to write.

Keep the word wall on display during the writing period for students to refer to.

Use thematic word walls to motivate your beginning writers! They're not only great for spelling, but also make great tools for vocabulary and no-prep writing centers! Read this post for ways to make and use them with your kindergarten and first-grade students!

This is great if you want to save paper on individual copies, if the entire class is working on writing. It’s how I introduced this type of writing so that students knew what to do during centers.

Centers

After doing one whole group, you can place this in the writing center! I love centers with built-in differentiation like this, where all students can be successful no matter what writing level they are on. GRAB THIS FREE SET BELOW!

Grab this free Thanksgiving word wall writing activity! These are perfect for centers in kindergarten and first grade.

Word walls can be great to plan and sequence stories, too. Below is our planning for a story based on There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Students practice telling the story orally, pointing to each note, before writing it.

We used a thematic word wall to plan a story version based on There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. We wrote the words in order onto post-it notes to sequence our story. Then, practiced telling the story a few times before writing it. Great for kindergarten, first and second grade!

GAMES

You can also play thematic games with your word wall. Cut the boxes apart and use them to play bingo (have kids write words on a blank board), or cut them apart and tape around your room. Students have to find them and use the word in a sentence.

We also played Grow a Pumpkin/ Turkey/ Snowman, etc (my version of ‘hangman’) with the words. It’s a great opportunity to discuss which letters make each sound.

Individual Use

You can add a copy of the word wall for the current theme to student folders for quick reference throughout the theme.

After using a thematic word wall in centers, I laminated a copy and added it to my table bins and writing center. Students loved to read these and they served as a great tool for writing ideas.

You can also have kids cut them apart and glue them in abc order into a notebook, to use as a mini-picture dictionary.

How to Make Your own Word Walls

You can easily make your own thematic word walls on an anchor chart and display it in your room for reference during writing.

  1. Brainstorm a list whole-group. Model your thinking process of knowing which words to add. Write some and also have your students come up for interactive writing.
  2. Add pictures as a scaffold. You can draw them, have kids draw them, or find clipart online.
  3. Take a picture of your anchor chart word wall and print individual copies for student centers or folder!
  4. Laminate a copy of each topic and place at your writing center or student tables for future reference.
  5. Hold students accountable for referring to the word wall for accurate spelling.

Done-For-You Thematic Word Walls

If your writing block is limited or if you simply don’t want to make your own word walls, pre-made word walls are a lifesaver! You can grab my Thematic Word Wall Writing Pack here from
my TPT store. You will find 16 different themed word walls available in digital and physical
format. There is even matching stationery to go along with each theme!

Click here for a free printable Thanksgiving set.

Hopefully, the process of adding word walls into your lessons seems less daunting. Comment below if you already use them and how you use them in your classroom. If you are still on the fence about them and have questions, comment below as well!

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