ELA & Writing,Management & Organization

A portable word wall and why you need one

In recent weeks I’ve gotten several inquiries in regards to my portable word wall. I’ve decided to put this post together to end the mystery behind the portable word wall ::cue mystery music:: and to hopefully get you to join in on this amazing way to have a word wall while saving space and promoting engagement.

A Portable Word Wall is a game changer in the classroom. It is interactive and engaging. Once you have one, you never look back

You’ve seen it, you’ve wondered about it, you’ve even contemplated taking the plunge and making your word wall portable.  But, something is holding you back-you don’t understand its purpose. I’m going to explain the portable word wall, gush over its benefits, and give you tips on how to introduce it to your class.

What is a Portable Word Wall?

It is exactly as its name denotes.  The words that we normally put on the word wall are on cards instead of written on the wall.  They are organized alphabetically and placed on rings to create word wall “books”.  They can be hung up on the wall and students go up and grab a “book” depending on what word they need help with. i.e. A student is writing and is not sure how to spell “friend”.  They know the word begins with the letter F so they go up and grab the F book and take it back to their seat.

Portable word walls offer the flexibility of space and engagement all in one!

Why Use a Portable Word Wall?

1. It is a Space Saver

I used to dedicate an entire bulletin board to my word wall.  It was great, but when you have limited display spaces in your classroom, it is not so great.  Now I am able to use my cork board for student work display and my white board as a focus wall.   A portable word wall doesn’t need a lot of space.  My word wall isn’t even located on a wall that would be used for anything else.  It is on the lower end of the wall and at eye level with the students when they sit on the rug. It is literally available wall space that I wouldn’t be using otherwise.

Portable word walls are a space saver! Look at where this teacher keeps her portable word wall in her classroom.

2. It is Engaging!

Yes, it is!!  I LOVE that the students take responsibility of their learning.  With the idea of student centered classrooms at the forefront, we can say that a portable word wall centers around the students. Whenever my kiddos are writing, they love getting up to the word wall and grabbing the book they need.  The hands on experience makes it personal.  The students remember that it is a tool for their advantage and it is very helpful for students who struggle with tracking letters because the word is right in front of them.

3. It is Portable!  

My classroom is not fully flexible when it comes to seating arrangement, but during independent work time, the students are never at their seats.  We sit in different areas throughout the room in order to work and some areas are far away from my traditional word wall or out of a student’s view.  With the portable word wall, it doesn’t matter where my students are because they have access to it. They can easily grab the book they need and take it back to where they are sitting.

Portable word walls can easily be hung up on the wall with the use of binder rings. Look at how this teacher sets hers up.

4. It is Interactive!

You are not limited to keeping the portable word wall on the wall. Because the words are on cards, they can be used to “play” some center games or for fluency practice.  Students can use them to do read and write rainbow writing in which they read the word on the card and then write it 3 times using different writing tools (markers, crayons, pens).  They can also use them as flash cards with a partner to practice reading and spelling.  My personal favorite is when a student holds a word up on their forehead for their partner to see.  The partner will spell the word and the person holding the card must identify which word they spelled.  Fun!

How Do I Introduce it to My Class?

The best way to introduce it is by placing as much emphasis on it as you would a traditional word wall. Students should understand its importance and how it is a learning tool for their benefit and not a toy.  The difference with the portable word wall is that students get excited about it because they will get to manipulate it.  They get to stand up out of their seats and who doesn’t love getting a good stretch?  I like to nip this “getting up and pretending I need a word wall book because I want to walk around and get a good stretch” behavior from the beginning (I’m sure this never happens in your class :wink:). Students are expected to highlight or underline any word in their writing that was aided by the word wall.   This way they have “proof” that they used the word wall.  I notice that after the initial 2 weeks, students don’t even need the proof anymore because they learn how to use the word wall appropriately and for their benefit.

Are you ready to take the plunge?! Start Here.  These Portable Word Walls are EDITABLE.  The beauty of it is that as your students interact with them, they will find words that  they wish were on the word wall.  With this editable resource, you can add those words in and customize for your students’ needs. Check out the three different editions of this resource in my TPT shop.

Interactive Word Wall Polka Dots Edition

Interactive Word Wall Yellow Stripes Edition

Interactive Word Wall Rainbow Edition

Do you already use a portable word wall in your classroom?  Tell me all about in the comment section below.

Happy Teaching,

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  • Reply
    Second Grade Stories
    July 30, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I'm sold! This post game at the exact right time for me. I'm moving to first and was really considering finding a different way to use my work wall. I love the reasons you shared and I'm excited to make the switch! Just put your rainbow word cards on my wishlist! – Lisa

  • Reply
    Megan K
    July 31, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    I switched to this a few years ago as a space saving technique and haven't looked back! I'm moving to second grade this year and plan to continue to use it there. Thanks for a great post that highlights the pros of this kind of word wall!

  • Reply
    June 19, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    I really like this idea, but I’m wondering how the kiddos know what words are on the cards? It seems like my students are always looking to see if the word they need is on my word wall. How do they know the word they need is in a book?

    • Reply
      July 6, 2017 at 2:58 am

      Hi Maria,
      Usually my students can identify which book they will find the word in based on the beginning letter sound. Since sight words don’t necessarily follow phonetic rules, it can be challenging for them to figure out what the card says. The students will usually ask me or a friend for support. Sometimes I am not available to guide them like during centers time, but when checking their work and having conference time with the students, we go over some words and find the correct ones.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    I am a first year teacher and love this idea! I’ve already purchased your yellow stripes edition and am wondering if you have a tutorial for how you figured out your spacing for the command hooks. I’m trying to decide where I’m going to put this in my classroom and am having a hard time figuring out how much space I need. Thanks!!

    • Reply
      August 26, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Jennifer!
      Thank you for your purchase. I do not have a tutorial on that. I would suggest hanging two of the sight word books side by side to test the spacing and then measure. You can do two rows like I have mine or more to be able to use less space across if needed.
      I hope you have an amazing school year. Remember to take it one day at a time and never forget to breathe 😉

  • Reply
    August 28, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Hi there!
    Just wondering where you found the small rings?

    • Reply
      September 1, 2017 at 2:15 am

      Hi Marilyn,
      I got them at Walmart 🙂

      • Reply
        Beverly Kilmer
        September 1, 2017 at 3:13 am

        Could you please specify which Command brand hooks you find work best? [There are so many listed online and it’s hard to discern from the photos which are type you used.] Thanks very much!

        • Reply
          September 3, 2017 at 10:15 pm

          Hi Beverly,
          I use the Command Mini Hooks. I buy the 18 pack 🙂

  • Reply
    jill himmelberger
    April 11, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Do you start out with all the words, or do you add words to each ring as you teach them?

    • Reply
      April 15, 2018 at 2:28 am

      Either way works. I know some people put them all out and others add them as they introduce them. For me, I like to put them all on at the beginning of the year because during writing time, if a student needs a word and I haven’t taught it explicitly yet, they can at least have access to it and the exposure 🙂

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