Create a Word Bank

By Nikki Stassi, January 17, 2011

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

90 minutes for classroom activities


Students in lower elementary are learning so many new words in language arts.  Many classes have a word of the day or week.  A Word Wall is one form of a word bank that is commonly used to display the words that students have learned.  It includes a list of words under each letter of the alphabet and is displayed somewhere in the classroom.  Many students, while aware of its presence, are not able to utilize the word wall to assist them with reading or writing.  This lesson challenges students to design a word bank that is more useful to them.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts Strand Reading Foundations, Grades K-2 RF.K.3, RF.1.3 & RF.2.3.  Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

Common Core English Language Arts Strand Speaking and Listening, Grades K-2 SL.K.1., SL.1.1 & SL.2.1  Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

Common Core English Language Arts Strand Language,  Grades K-2 L.K.1., L.1.1 & L.2.1  Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Language Arts

Standard 1. Level I. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

3. Editing and Publishing: Uses strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., proofreads using a dictionary and other resources; edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; incorporates illustrations or photos; uses available, appropriate technology to publish work; use legible handwriting, shares finished product)

Standard 5. Level I. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

6. Understands level-appropriate sight words and vocabulary (e.g., words for persons, places, things, actions, and feelings; words that appeal to the senses; high frequency words such as said, was, and where)

Working With Others Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group 2. Works cooperatively within a group to complete tasks, achieve goals, and solve problems


Students will be able to:

  • understand the purpose of a word bank
  • design a word bank that students can use in reading and writing


clip image gallery common list of words to use to create word bank


  • notebooks
  • pencils
  • tabs
  • posters
  • markers


  • word bank: a way of organizing words so that they may be utilized by students during reading and writing


Day 1:

1. Begin with a discussion about how we remember things.  Explain: “We sometimes practice over and over until we remember and we sometimes use resources to remind us.  Resources are anything that helps us remember or use information.  A word bank is a kind of resource.”  Ask: “What is the purpose of a word bank in our classroom?”  If there is already a Word Wall in the classroom, that can be used as a “jumping off point.”

2. Have students brainstorm pros and cons of the Word Wall.  Students can “interview” their classmates to find out how others use the Word Wall.  What do they like about it and what would they change?

3. Ask students to think of ways that we can keep the pros while improving upon the cons.  Prompt with a few ideas:

  • “Should it still be displayed on a wall in the classroom?” 
  • “Could we make it in a book instead or is there another way to display the words?” 
  • “What else should our word bank include besides a list of the words?”

4. Put all brainstormed ideas up on a wall. (Write each idea on a new Post-it and stick the Post-its on the wall.)  Take all ideas, no matter how silly or impractical they may seem.

5. Work with students to put the ideas into a few groups (maybe “ideas that go on a wall,” “ideas that go in a book,” etc.).

Day 2:

1. Remind students that they are working on a word resource.  Have students choose which group of ideas they would like to work with and assist them in making cooperative groups of about four students.

2. Each group should choose one or two ideas to work on. 

3. In their groups the students can make a prototype to show how they would organize the words.  Remind students they need to explain to the class how their word bank meets the needs of students.

4. Give students time to discuss/prototype within their groups.

5. Have each group present their idea.  Allow other students to ask questions and make comments.


Students should be assessed based on their presentation.  Can students explain why their word bank meets students’ needs and how they would utilize it as a reader and writer? 

English language learners and students with disabilities should be grouped with peers who may assist them.  Teacher should circulate to check in with each group and check in with ELL students and students with disabilities specifically.  At this point, the teacher may provide some additional support/guidance for students who are struggling.  Alternate presentation methods should be considered, such as presenting one-on-one, and drawing or writing rather than speaking in front of the class.


Enrichment Extension Activities

There is no ONE way that will work for all students.  Challenge them to pick a way that they think might help them to better utilize a word bank.  Assist them in creating a word bank.  There may be some students who choose to create a student picture dictionary in a notebook while others want something displayed on a wall.  It is okay to create more than one resource in the classroom.  Add new words as they are studied to each form of word bank.  After using the new word banks, ask students to analyze if the new formats are working.  Do they love the new resource or would they make changes?

  1. Some students do not, or are unable to utilize the classroom Word Wall. This allows students to design a word bank/word wall that would be student and user friendly. Students would then have easy access to use this tool at school and at home for their reading and writing assignments. This would also encourage students to take ownership for developing and expanding their vocabulary which would help them meet the State standards. JAS New York

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