A sound wall is a way to organize and display the different sounds (or phonemes) we hear in speech. In this post I’ll share tips for how to set up a sound wall in the kindergarten, first or second grade classroom and share details about my virtual sound wall resource.
Lately, I’ve been sharing a lot of information about Sound Walls. I’ve written about the benefits of sound walls, created a sound wall resource, and shared videos with tips and ideas about using one in the classroom.
I’m thrilled to see all the enthusiasm you have for them! So many of you are ready to take down that word wall and replace it with a sound wall!
I’ve also gotten a lot of smart questions about sound walls! You’re wondering about the best ways to set up a sound wall and how to introduce it to your students.
I want your sound wall to be an interactive tool. One that will help your students have the knowledge and the tools to read, spell, and write confidently. I also want it to be something that feels manageable for you as the teacher. To help ensure that that’s the case, today I’m sharing 4 tips for setting up a sound wall.
Tips for Setting Up a Sound Wall
1. Build the sound wall with your students.
You’ve probably seen images of sound walls that have ALL the keywords under each phoneme. They likely overwhelm you! But don’t worry- that’s what we want the sound wall to look like at the END of the year! At the start of the year, you will not have all the components of the sound wall posted. The only components you will post are the mouth articulation photos and the sound spelling cards. You will “unlock” the new phonemes one by one and build your sound wall WITH your students as you introduce, explicitly teach, and practice each one. (Phonemes that have been learned in a previous grade should be posted and reviewed at the start of the year).
In addition, once you unlock the sound, you’ll want to cover some of the graphemes with Post-Its or paper and unveil them as you teach them. Following your foundational skills’ scope and sequence, teach the most common letter or grapheme(s) that represents the sound. For example, after introducing the phoneme /f/ you would tell your students the grapheme f is the most common spelling for that sound. You can also attach a keyword picture to help students see the phoneme in context and remember the sound-spelling.
2. Plan out the space you will need.
Yes, your sound wall starts out empty but I know you need to know how much space you’ll need once it is complete! As a busy teacher, you don’t have time to measure it out and determine exactly where to place each card as your wall grows!
Many people have asked about the space needed for a sound wall. The size of my bulletin boards for both the vowel valley and consonant sound wall were each 4′ x 8′! They are large bulletin boards! I’ve got some ideas if you have limited space later in this post.
To help you plan I’ve added locks to my sound wall resource.
Set up your entire consonant sound wall and vowel valley and use the locks or yellow covers to cover up each sound. Then unveil them one by one as you teach them. The locks make things a little more exciting and engaging for students! You can really build anticipation and excitement when you tell your students you’re going to “unlock” a new sound!
If your wall space is limited, print the smaller sound cards. If those cards are still too large, you can adjust the scale settings in your printer or print two pages on one to make them smaller. This picture shows a teacher who shrunk the cards down in order to fit her sound wall on closet doors.
3. Create a mobile consonant sound wall and vowel valley.
If you have limited wall space or worried students won’t be able to see the sound walls from their seats? Create a mobile sound wall using a tri-fold project display board. Use it on the rug for whole-class instruction, bring it to your table for small groups, or place it in a center to support students in their independent practice!
A portable sound wall is also a great solution if you teach multiple ages or groups of students, each class can have its own sound wall!
You can also print individual sound wall folders for students to use at school or home. The disadvantage of this option is that students could be overwhelmed as the sound walls show ALL the phonemes and graphemes from the beginning.
4. Use a Virtual Sound Wall
Limited wall space? Not interested in resizing the cards, printing, laminating, etc?? No problem! I have created a VIRTUAL SOUND WALL and VOWEL VALLEY for you! This sound wall has all the components you’ll need to easily and clearly introduce each phoneme to your students and there is NO PREP work required!
I created this virtual, interactive sound wall on google slides so you can display it on your SmartBoard, projector, or whatever digital platform you use. You can use it on laptops with small groups or individual students, and even share it with families to use at home!
Curious to learn more? This video takes a closer look at the resource and walks you through all the components that are included!
Please note, if you own the physical sound wall this virtual version has been added to the bundle, please download it again to get this free update! Now you have more ways you can interact with your sound wall!
5. Print extra letter sound cards and use them in different ways.
Remember, you can print the sound spelling cards as many times as you’d like! Here are a few other ways I would use the phoneme-grapheme cards:
💗 Print an extra set and place them where I’d normally set up my large A-Z alphabet line.
💗 Print an extra set of cards and use them as a close-up reference during your direct instruction.
💗 Highlight the sound you are teaching that week by placing the card on the whiteboard, focus board, or in a pocket chart.
💗 Print them out and put them into a flip ring for students to refer to and use in centers.
💗 Print small cards and create a center game, students would love to play Sound Wall Memory or Go Fish!
What other ideas do you have??? I know the options are limitless!
Finally, take a look at this video where I recap the information I’ve shared here and provide you with a few MORE helpful tips and tricks on how to implement a sound wall in your classroom!
Making the switch from a word wall does take time, effort, and some new learning but you can do it! I hope the information I’ve shared today makes the task of setting up a sound wall feel more manageable and leaves you excited for all the benefits a sound wall can bring to your classroom and students!