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Sound Wall? What is it? How do I use it?

Updated: Jun 17

Hi friends! There has been a LOT of buzz about switching from word walls to sound walls this year. I am so happy to be hearing all of the buzz and seeing teachers diving into learning a "new" way of teaching reading. I say "new" because the research has been around for years!! Finally, the switch is happening.


Let's talk about what a sound wall is and the benefits of a sound wall versus a word wall.



Sound Wall vs. Word Wall


To be 100% honest, I never had a word wall in my classroom. Since I first started my teaching career in 2013, I was trained in Orton-Gillingham with the Orton-Gillingham Academy (formerly The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators). When I had my classroom of k-2 students, I created what I called back then a sound board, which was essentially the same as a sound wall.


A sound wall focuses on the phonemes (sounds) in our language paired with mouth pictures showing how they are articulated. A word wall followed the alphabet and listed words that started with that letter of the alphabet.


A sound wall is more structured and sequential than a word wall.


How to introduce a Sound Wall


I am big on making my bulletin boards interactive. I like to use them with my students as we learn through out the year.


I know you may be eager to set up that beautiful sound wall right a way, but let's take a step back and think about how we should use a sound wall in our classroom (interactively).


Classroom decor and bulletin boards can be overwhelming at times. I liked to set mine up with a plan for using them during instruction. Most of the time at the beginning of the year, my bulletin boards were pretty bare. See blog post "Tour my Orton-Gillingham Based Classroom.


Let's do the same with the sound wall. Add components to the sound wall as you directly and explicitly teach them so that your students know what they are referring to and can use the sound wall effectively. This can be done during your small group or whole class phonics instruction time.


Pictured below is one of my Orton-Gillingham based task boxes for introducing speech sounds with mouth pictures. These can be used to help students practice their speech sounds and mouth formation while looking at a mirror. View Speech Sounds Task Cards here.




As each phonogram is taught, add it to your sound wall. View phonogram cards here to use during your small group phonics, Orton-Gillingham lessons.


Are you ready to set up a sound wall?


There are many sound wall options to choose from. Some even follow color schemes if you want to have some fun classroom decor while still keeping it practical and instructional. You can find some options for sound walls and Orton-Gillingham based Classroom Decor in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, Special Inspiration. You can shop Orton-Gillingham Classroom Decor here.


Below is an example of a sound wall available here in my tpt store.