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3 Reasons to Transition Your Word Wall into a Sound Wall

Everyone knows about Word Walls, but are you familiar with Sound Walls? Sound Walls are a dynamic approach to phonics compared to the ways of a traditional word wall. Follow along to consider 3 reasons you should consider transitioning your Word Wall into a Sound Wall this year and how to do so with ease!

3 Reasons to Transition Your Word Wall into a Sound Wall

Let’s face it— Word Walls don’t always work. 

They lack in organization, application, and interaction. Where Word Walls lack though, Sound Walls deliver!

1. Organization

Sound Walls are organized like our English language– speech to print! This helps students make easy connections to words.

The words are organized by consonant and vowel sounds instead of by the first letter of the word.


On the other hand, Word Walls are organized as print to speech. That’s why it’s always been so tricky to figure out where to put words like  “know” on you word wall. Does it go under letter k even though it sounds like /n/?  With Sound Walls, you don’t have that problem!

2. Application

Unlike Word Walls which primarily focus on the memorization of sight words or high-frequency words, Sound Walls provide a comprehensive approach to phonics instruction by emphasizing the relationship between sounds and letters. 


Often with Word Walls, words start with a letter that doesn’t make the sound you hear. There are just too many of these “rulebreaker” words, and this is confusing!

Sound walls support students as they naturally move from speech to print. They are helpful as students sound out words during reading or writing. By showing multiple graphemes for each phoneme, children learn to transfer those skills.

3. Interaction

Sounds Walls encourage student interaction! 

Word Walls are like art galleries where it’s only encouraged to “look, not touch!”. With Sound Walls, students are able to use Mouth Pictures and mirrors to practice articulatory placements of each sound as needed. 

They empower students to become proficient readers and spellers! They truly bridge the gap between spoken and written words. If you’re looking for maximum interaction, check out these Sound Wall Activities

More About Sound Walls

To explain more, Sound Walls are a visual map to help students match phonemes (sounds) with graphemes (letters).

  • A phoneme is one sound.
  • The English language has 44 phonemes.
  • Show phonemes by adding slashes around the letters
  • Examples: /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!
  • Examples: ay, b, kn, ou, and ow


Each phoneme is shown and accompanied by different graphemes. The graphemes show how the sound can be spelled.

Sound walls may show multiple ways to spell each sound. For example, /ā/ might show the graphemes a, a_e, ay, ai, and eigh.

The wall 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.

This comprehensive display helps students explore and understand the connections between sounds and letters. This builds a strong foundation for future literacy development!

The Sound Wall Teacher Guide has even more information to help you feel informed and confident about your instructional decisions. *Download it for free near the end of this post.


How to Create a Sound Wall

The Sound Wall and Phonics posters set has everything you need to create a colorful and functional Sound Wall for your classroom.


*Options are ready for rainbow colors and all-black fonts.

Creating a sound wall may feel a little overwhelming at first, but it really is a straightforward process:

  1. Start by choosing a large wall space in your classroom. There is no magical measurement for a sound wall.  Choose the features and phonemes that work best for your students and your curriculum! 
  2. Then, divide it into sections for each phoneme (not into letters like you are used to with a Word Wall).
  3. Within each section, you will display the various graphemes that go along with the phoneme. 

Mouth shape cards (like the ones found in the Sound Wall resource) help reinforce articulatory placements.

To help you choose the perfect layout and design, download the Teacher Guide for FREE.


FREE Sound Wall Teacher Guide!

Get our Colorful Word Wall Cards & Sound Wall Teacher Guide sent right to your inbox! Leave your email below and we will send these resources to you right away!

Make it Personal for Students!

Make individual sound walls for each of your students using file folders. This is a great way to ensure instruction is differentiated!

How To:

  1. Choose the pages that best fit each student’s needs.
  2. Laminate the pages front and back or glue them inside the manilla folder.

Students can keep their copies in their desk or storage drawer. You can also stash extra copies in your literacy centers!


Also, consider sending an extra copy home to encourage consistent support and increase your home connection with caregivers. 

Personal copies are also a great option if you don’t have the wall space for a full-sized Sound Wall!

How to Teach Using a Sound Wall

Sound Walls are more than just pretty displays to cover your classroom walls! Teaching with Sound Walls is interactive and engaging for students. 

Teach using your Sound Wall in 5 easy ways:


1. Use the Cards to Teach New Sounds

Use the large posters and cards in the Sound Wall Resource Set to easily introduce new sounds to your students. When learning a new sound, add it to your wall or show students where to find it in their personal copies.

2. Refer to the Target Pictures

When you talk about a sound, use the target picture from the card. 

“I hear /a/ like apple. What letter matches the /a/ sound?”

3. Use the Wall for Learning Games

Practice finding previously learned sounds by playing fun games with your students. Sound Wall I Spy is an easy and engaging option!

“I Spy the sound /d/! Who can find it?” 

This game will help your students learn to quickly and accurately find sounds.

4. Lock New Sounds

If there are sounds you won’t teach until later in the year, just cover them with a picture of a lock and “unlock” them later.


This helps reduce potential visual overwhelm and is so exciting for students to “unlock” new sounds!

5. Add Mirrors

Finally, use mirrors with your Sound Wall! Hang a mirror or place small hand mirrors near your wall. Encourage students to watch their mouths as they practice making different sounds.

use a mirror for mouth articulation

*If you’re planning to use the mirrors in small groups, you’ll need to have a few on hand. For large group practice, consider an entire class set!

What About the Word Walls?

Word Walls have their time & place. They are great places to “study” a collection of sight words or high-frequency words or even play sight word games.


If you have the space for both types of walls in your classroom, GO FOR BOTH!

Sound Wall Inspiration

Check out how these inspirational  teachers who used the Polka Dots Please Sound Wall in their classrooms!

This amazing teacher utilized her large windows to create a Sound Wall!
 This colorful Sound Wall is in a first grade classroom.
Sound Wall with Mouth Positions
The chalkboard  behind this kindergarten Sound Wall really helps the pictures and text stand out!
This smaller Sound Wall is the perfect size for its Pre-K classroom.

You CAN make the transition from a Word Wall to a Sound Wall! It will revolutionize the way your students learn to read and spell. As you shift the focus from sight words to phonemic awareness skills, your students will develop strong foundations for future literacy skills. 


Your students are lucky to have a teacher who takes the time and energy to create a classroom environment that supports and enhances learning!

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Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

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