Personal Word Wall

Spotlight on Strategy by Katie Lanier


Learning physics can seem like learning a new language. Many of the words seem familiar but have a specific and different academic meaning. This can pose a problem for all students, not just English Language Learners. Research done by Robert Marzano shows that direct teaching of vocabulary improves comprehension and increases depth of knowledge (Marzano, 2004).

Word walls are usually lists of words from a unit displayed in highly visible place in the classroom. This provides students a reference point to find appropriate terms during lessons and activities. Additionally they can be used during direct instruction for emphasis or as a focus for an activity. In this activity students will create and use their own personal word wall (Cronsberry, 2004).

Example - Using Wave Words

Create a personal word wall.
  • Provide students with a vocabulary list with definitions.
  • Students will use Wordle or Tagxedo tool to create a word cloud using the vocabulary list. Students should save their creation for reference and to use later.

Create interest in the vocabulary by providing students with photographs of wave interactions, challenge them to find an example on the internet or create and use one of their own. (Examples are shown below.)

Watch the video lesson on wave interactions and take notes.

Use vocabulary from the word wall and information from the video lesson to write a paragraph or record a narration describing the wave interaction shown in the chosen picture.

Create a sharable document using Google docs, or PowerPoint. This document should include the word wall, the chosen image and the paragraph or narration.

Build a digital vocabulary book or create a class word wall with the student work.


  • Choose a unit of study with visually interesting vocabulary.
  • Have students create their own word wall.
  • Assign a word or allow students to select a word.
  • Assign a picture or allow students to find or create a photograph.
  • Have students write or narrate a description of how the word and picture are related using the appropriate vocabulary from their word wall.
  • Compile the work to share with the class as a gallery.


Cronsberry, J. (2004). Word Walls - A Support for Litteracy in Secondary School Classrooms. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from

Marzano, R. (2004). Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.