Sound Wall vs Word Wall
Are you Team Word Wall or Team Sound Wall? Not sure about the differences between a sound wall vs word wall?
Either way, I’m glad you’re here! Let’s look at how you can choose what is best for your students?
Let's Get Started
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by some of the information you’ve heard about a sound wall vs word wall, you’re not alone! Let’s clear up the confusion and look at some of the terms you may need to know.
- A phoneme is one sound.
- The English language has 44 phonemes.
- We show phonemes by adding slashes around the letters
- Here are examples of phonemes: /ā/ /b/ /sh/ and /ou/
- A grapheme is a letter or group of letters to represent one sound.
The English alphabet has 26 letters and about 250 graphemes!
Here are some examples of graphemes: ay, b, kn, ou, and ow
➡️ My Sound Wall Teacher Guide has even more information to help you feel informed and confident about your instructional decisions. You can download it for free near the end of this post.
What is a Word Wall?
A word wall is a display designed to help students find words. These displays typically include all 26 letters in alphabetical order. As students learn high frequency words or sight words, they are added to the word wall.
For example, under the letter A, you might find the sight words a, at, am, and are.
➡️You can download all of my colorful word wall cards with real photos for FREE below.
What is a Sound Wall?
A sound wall is a display to help students match phonemes with graphemes. It may include up to 44 phonemes and be organized according to how each sound is made. Matching mouth shape cards can help students learn to articulate sounds correctly.
Sound walls may show multiple ways to spell each sound. For example, /ā/ might show the graphemes a, a_e, ay, ai, and eigh.
How much space do I need?
Your classroom space is valuable so you want to use it wisely. When choosing between a sound wall vs word wall, teachers often ask how much wall space they need.
- Word Wall Size
There’s no exact size required for a word wall, but here are some things to keep in mind:
- You need space for all 26 letters of the alphabet.
- Consider adding long vowel sounds and digraphs to your word wall.
- The amount of space left under each letter should match the number of words you will need to add. A first grade word wall will need more space than a kindergarten word wall because more sight words are introduced.
You can learn more about a setting up a simple word wall here.
Sound Wall Size
Like a word wall, there is no magical measurement for a sound wall. You will need to choose the features and phonemes that work best for your students and your curriculum.
➡️To help you choose the perfect layout and design, you can download my Sound Wall Teacher Guide for FREE below.
No Space? No problem!
If you’re short on space, consider individual word walls or student sound walls. Students can refer to them at any time without ever leaving their seat. These mini walls are also perfect for small group lessons or take home resources.
What are the Pros and Cons?
Word Wall Pros
Word walls are very helpful for students to practice sight words. They can use a classroom word wall when they are writing sight words. Students can also read the words on the word wall to improve their reading fluency.
Word Wall Con
Word walls are limited by their organization. For example, when teaching the word “know” does it go under letter K or under letter N?
Sound Wall Pros
Sound walls support students as they naturally move from speech to print. Sound walls are helpful as students sound out words during reading or writing. By showing multiple graphemes for each phoneme, children learn to transfer those skills. You can also add sight words to your sound wall to help students learn these words.
Sound Wall Con
Sound walls can look overwhelming. Students need instruction to understand how the sounds are organized and how to use this type of display. I suggest “locking” or covering sounds and “unlocking” them as you learn throughout the year.
Sound Wall vs Word Wall Verdict
If I had a classroom with ample wall space, I would choose…BOTH!
I like having a word wall that students can quickly use to find sight words we have learned. A word wall is a great place to “study” a collection of sight words and play sight word games.
I also like having a sound wall to support students as they read and write new words. They can match the sounds they are hearing with the graphemes. I can add new graphemes throughout the year as we learn more spelling patterns.
Regardless of what you choose, I’ve got some resources to get you started! You can download my Colorful Word Wall Cards with real photos and my Sound Wall Teacher Guide for Free!
Ready for a new Word Wall or Sound Wall?
If you already know you’re ready for a sound wall, I’ve done all the work for you. My Sound Wall and Phonics posters have everything you need for your classroom. Options are ready for rainbow colors and all black fonts!
Whatever you choose, I’d love to hear what you’re doing for your students! You’re creating a classroom environment that supports and enhances learning. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who takes time and energy to make such a special classroom space!