Using Word Walls in Biology

Using Word Walls in Biology

14 Ways to Use Word Walls in Biology

If you’ve been teaching Biology for any length of time, then you know that many students get totally freaked out by the new vocabulary. They learn hundreds of new words in Biology and, you have to admit, some of them are pretty complicated.

These new words must not only be defined, but also understood so they can be used by students to explain concepts and describe relationships between ideas.

A Word Wall is simply a collection of words printed in large format, laminated and displayed in the classroom either directly on the wall or bulletin board or in a pocket chart.

Word Walls can also include word parts such as roots, prefixes and suffixes, to help students learn to break words down in order to determine meaning. Learning common word parts and understanding how to break words into parts is a skill that can be applied to other content areas as well.

All of my Literacy Strategies for Biology resources contain Word Wall cards ready to print and laminate. They also include two other research-based literacy strategies: constructed response questions and graphic organizers. Check them out:





The literacy strategy of using a word wall serves to keep vocabulary words and word parts in front of students throughout a topic of study. Simply pointing to words as you use them during a lesson will increase familiarity with key terms, but when you intentionally incorporate the strategies listed below, you just might start to see dramatic improvements in your students’ reading comprehension, spelling, oral communication and writing skills. And, of course, you’ll also be reinforcing science concepts and terminology.

Ways to Implement a Word Wall in Your Classroom

  1. Posting: Depending on the level of your students, you may decide to post all cards on the first day of studying new topic or post words a few at a time, as they come up in class. You might want to start with the words in alphabetical order and you can rearrange them later.
  2. Activate Prior Knowledge: By posting cards with common root words, prefixes, and suffixes first, you can activate students’ prior knowledge by asking them to think of words they know using these parts.
  3. Find a Partner: Ask students to choose a card as they walk into the room, or randomly hand them out, and give them time to use their text or other resources to find out as much as they can about their word. Then, they can look for partners that have related words. Together, they can present their related words to the class.
  4. Make a Graphic Organizer: Give a group of related cards to a small group and ask them to make a graphic organizer to show relationships and present to the class.
  5. Word of the Day: Choose one word to focus on for the day.
  6. Question of the Day: Pose a question and ask students to answer using one or more of the words on the word wall.
  7. Writing: Encourage students to use a certain number of word wall words in a writing assignment.
  8. Illustrate: Ask students to choose a word to illustrate on a mini-poster to hang in the room or use their illustrations as interactive notebook activities.
  9. Category Sort: Give small groups a set of words to sort into categories. They can even create their own category cards.
  10. Personal Word Wall: Students can create their own personal word wall to keep in their notebooks for studying.
  11. Muddiest Point Cards: Ask students to write a word from the wall that is still unclear to them (muddy) on a 3 x 5 card. They turn these in on their way out of class and you can use their feedback to inform your instruction.
  12. Exit Slips: Pose a review question from the day’s lesson and ask students to answer on a slip of paper using words from the wall. This slip of paper becomes their pass to exit class as well as a formative assessment.
  13. Word Games: Let students play with words! Your word wall can contain the answers to word search, word scramble or crossword puzzles.
  14. Bingo: Have students fill in a BINGO-type grid with words from the wall. You call out definitions or examples and they mark their grid.

Let me know what you think about using Word Walls in your high school classroom.

You might also like this post about Implementing Constructed Response Questions in your Biology Classroom.
Happy Teaching!


Carla Brooks is the owner and curriculum designer of Science Island Curriculum which specializes in creating engaging and effective curriculum for Biology and Anatomy & Physiology