Reasons to Switch From Word Walls to Sound Walls

Like how learning is an ongoing process, education continues to evolve and improve as years go by. One of the latest trends in the industry is the switch from word walls to sound walls.

Learn why this change is trending and why it is necessary.

What is a Sound Wall?

You need to understand what a sound wall is before understanding why classrooms are choosing it over word walls nowadays.

A sound wall, like a word wall, is a classroom display. However, instead of having words listed alphabetically, its list of words is based on the phonology of the language. 

It means that different speech sounds or phonemes are displayed instead of the 26 letters of the alphabet. A sound wall is divided into two sections: vowels and consonants.

Each speech sound is represented by an articulatory photo and a list of words that displays the different graphemes for each phoneme. A sound wall helps children understand what is happening with their teeth, lips, and tongue when they are making a sound.


Reason Why Schools are Switching to Sound Walls

A word wall is a staple display for most classrooms since it serves as a reference for students when they need to write something in class. The words on the word wall are arranged alphabetically which can be confusing for younger students.

Arranging words alphabetically seems like a good way to organize words. Now, you may be wondering how it is confusing young learners.

One example of how a word wall can confuse young learners is how the worth “the” is placed under the letter “t”, but this word does not begin with the phoneme of /t/. “The” used the /th/ speech sound instead.

This concept can confuse children who have just begun learning how to read.

The idea of a sound wall is to highlight how each sound is produced and strengthening the phoneme-grapheme representations in the classroom.

Switching to a sound wall does not mean completely eliminating the use of a word wall. Educators can still choose to put up a word wall but for a different purpose.

Teachers can use it to better focus on building new vocabulary, as well as building on their comprehension of a variety of words. 


How to Effectively Use a Sound Wall in the Classroom?


If you are an educator and you feel that a sound wall is something that will greatly support your students in their learning– then you need to understand the best way to create and use it in the classroom.

Here are some steps and tips that you can follow to help implement the usage of a sound wall in your classes.

  • Do not put the full sound wall up at the beginning of the year. Doing so can overwhelm your student.
  • Create the sound wall with your class. Add words as the school year progress.
  • Introduce each sound that you would normally use in class.
  • Demonstrate how to make the sound with your mouth.
  • Suggest or even encourage the use of small mirrors so that the students can see what their lips, teeth, and tongue are doing when they make sounds.
  • Discuss with class. Ask them what they notice when they make a particular sound.
  • Add a word for each spelling pattern for each particular sound and add it to the wall.


Your sound wall does not need to be fancy, it can be as simple as handwritten words showing letter combinations that make each phoneme. However, you can further help your young learners by using different colors and even shapes! 

You should take into consideration whether you use a particular phonics program in your school. This way, you can positively create a sound wall in the order in which the phonics program gets you to expose your students to different phonemes.

You should also review the sound wall with your students daily. Practice with your young learners to make sure that they understand how each speech sound is made and how to correctly pronounce each word.