Wordwall takes vocabulary games and reviews into the digital world, and is easy to use for teachers and learners. If you are looking to add a new digital tool to your teaching, this is a very good place to start.
A familiar idea in a new format
Many years ago, I would spend a lot of time preparing additional games or activities for my classes to practise and reinforce words and phrases we had been looking at. This was especially the case when I was teaching younger learners, and even though my ‘toolkit’ as a teacher has changed over the years, there are some ideas I still use today, such as having a ‘word box’.
Wordwall feels like it belongs in that category of activities that revise vocabulary. Although some features can help other aspects of language learning, it feels most useful for vocabulary revision. Most importantly, it makes the process of doing that easier for the teacher, and I would say this is the perfect tool to look at if you are short of time or not very confident with technology. Although it is only available in English, you just need a computer or tablet connected to the internet, and after setting up an account (no problems there), you can quickly start creating interactive activities or printable worksheets.
The concept is simple: create well-known activity types such as multiple choice, grouping or matching. You can use up to six activity types (templates) for free and because Wordwall is web-based, that means you can create activities quickly and easily in a matter of minutes, at home or work, without the need to download any additional software.
Features to look out for
Most activities are based on ‘items’ – and these are best understood as words or phrases which you want to revise. For example, you could create a set of items which are colours, and another set which are shapes. These items can be made into an interactive grouping activity, where students drag them into the right place, or they could be turned into multiple-choice questions. They can also be made into games suited to younger, primary-aged learners, such as ‘whack-a-mole’.
If you build up a large bank of items for each group of vocabulary, you can then, in one click, create an online activity of your choice to revise them. You can also, if you prefer, create a printable worksheet.
Once you have created an activity, it is shareable in different ways:
- you can give your learners a url, or web address, to access it
- you can embed it in your school’s online platform for your learners
- you can give them a code to access it via the Wordwall website.
If you want, you can give activities a leaderboard to track each learner’s score. With paid membership of Wordwall, you can use multiplayer versions of activities, where teams can play against each other.
What is the value in all this? Research shows that exposing students to vocabulary at ‘spaced’ intervals is helpful to their learning, and this is even more helpful if there is some kind of task which they need to do, such as grouping words or typing them out correctly. Wordwall is a way for you to help your learners memorise vocabulary – with some tasks being more helpful, and more demanding, than others. You will have to decide when and how often to use it though.
Some possible uses
Wordwall is particularly useful for mixed-level classes, where you can assign fast finishers an activity which they can easily access online, even from their phone. It can also create a dynamic way to have class competitions, either with two or more learners in direct competition at the same time, or using the leaderboard.
Wordwall also has potential to be used for self-study. You can set tasks for groups or individual learners by giving them an access code (although there is nothing to stop someone else doing the activity for a learner!). You can check their scores.
Finally, for older learners, you could get them to use Wordwall to create activities for their classmates.
As ever, it is important to plan how your learners will access online activities. Are there computers or tablets they can use in class? If they have smartphones, are they allowed to use them in class, and does your school have a Wi-Fi connection they can use safely? And remember, it’s always worth testing devices before you plan to use them in class: perhaps set aside 15 minutes in class one week to check them, and make sure the rules for using them are clear.
The features you can use on Wordwall, such as setting assignments, or being able to create more complex activity types, depend on the account you have. Although it is free to sign up and use basic features, you have to pay – as an individual or as a school – to have more options.
However, whatever your account and whatever the age of your learners, once you are comfortable with Wordwall, you will find it’s a very useful addition to your teaching toolkit.