Let's Talk About the Classroom Sound Wall - Lucky Little Learners
November Math Centers for 1st grade and 2nd grade

Let’s Talk About the Classroom Sound Wall

Blog Posts, Foundational Reading, Literacy, Phonics

Written by: Krys Warstillo

Buzz words come and go in education. A phrase that’s all over online teacher groups and making headlines right now is the “science of reading” or SoR. This post from Heggerty has a TON of amazing resources if you’d like to learn more about SoR. We all want to be the best teachers we can be and keeping up with best practices, especially in reading, is vital. A classroom sound wall is based on the science of reading and supports explicit instruction with phonemes.

how to set up and use a sound wall in the classroom

Before we get into the specifics of the Sound Wall with Mouth Pictures & Phonics Posters let’s go through some frequently asked questions about classroom sound walls.

What Is a Sound Wall?

A sound wall is a way to organize phonemes and spelling patterns for students to use as a reference when they are spelling and reading words. Words are grouped by phonemes (or sounds) and NOT beginning letters. A sound wall organizes English-language phonemes in a way that allows students to make sense of spelling patterns that make different sounds.

classroom sound wall
Photo Credit: Amanda Alba

How Are Sound Walls and Word Walls Different?

First, you organize a word wall alphabetically A through Z. Typically, we add sight words or high-frequency words based on the first letter of the word. This becomes a problem when we get to words like “the.” If a student doesn’t know what letters are connected to the initial /th/ sound then a word wall won’t help them. They don’t know to look under the letter T. While some of us might feel very attached to them, word walls don’t work for many of our learners. Reading Rockets has a wonderful write-up (and a great explanatory chart!) on why you should transition from a word wall to a sound wall.

With a sound wall, the sections are broken into sounds. Under each sound are letter(s) that are used to spell that sound, along with word examples. Students will use their knowledge of the sounds they’ve been explicitly taught to use the classroom sound wall on their own!

How Much Room Does A Sound Wall Take Up?

A standard classroom bulletin board should be enough. The space you’re already using for a word wall will fit your sound wall just fine! If your classroom doesn’t have a lot of wall space, there are personal sound walls included in our Sound Wall resource that students can keep in their desks.

classroom sound wall
Photo Credit: Amanda Haycock

Which Grades Should Use A Sound Wall?

Sound walls are an excellent resource for struggling readers of all ages. You introduce sound walls to students using the sounds they already know. The sounds they know in 1st grade are very different than the sounds they know in 2nd or even 3rd grade. Refer to the sequence your school uses for phonics instruction to get a sense of what your students have already learned. So, in a 1st-grade classroom, the sound wall might have a lot of little locks (more on these locks in a second) covering sounds they don’t know yet. In a 2nd-grade classroom, the sound wall will be mostly lock-free.

padlocks to lock sounds not yet learned on a sound wall

How Do I Use a Classroom Sound Wall?

A sound wall can be empty at the beginning of the year. It will grow as you teach the sounds and spelling patterns. Alternatively, you can post the sounds and use a printable “lock” icon to cover sounds your students haven’t learned yet. During instruction, introduce (or “unlock”) one sound at a time. Draw the students’ attention to what your mouth is doing as you make each sound. Next, focus your students’ attention on the letters and the articulation card on your sound wall so they make the connection between the two. Then, tie in a reference picture to the sound. These reference pictures are great prompts for students. Finally, you can add words that also use the same sound to blank cards or sticky notes. Be sure to consistently demonstrate how the students can use the sound wall as a reference tool.

sample classroom sound wall

The Lucky Little Learners Sound Wall with Mouth Pictures & Phonics Posters

So, you’ve read the research and you are ready to incorporate a sound wall into your reading instruction. Here at Lucky Little Learners, we created a sound wall we think you’re going to love! Take a look at the video below for an up close and personal tour of our Classroom Sound Wall, all set up and ready to use with students!

Our classroom sound wall pack comes with some fantastic bonus phonics posters as well!

phonics posters

What’s In Your Download

  • Headings and labels 
  • Mouth articulation clipart
  • 46 phoneme cards 
  • Picture cards for each phoneme
  • Sound spelling cards
  • Word cards highlighting the graphemes
  • Blank cards to add more words
  • Lock cards to cover up sounds before taught
  • Individual sound wall for student use
  • Tips and directions 
classroom sound wall and phonics posters pack by Lucky Little Learners

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sound wall and phonics posters

Sound Wall & Phonics Posters

Looking For More?

We have a lot of great ELA resources for your lucky little learners. Take a look at our posts below!

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how to set up a classroom sound wall

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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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