What is a SMART Virtual Word Wall?

As it was discovered in the literature, there is an overwhelming need for teachers, who teach ESL, to reevaluate the way they instruct their ELL students in reading. Research indicates that students need to be intentionally taught vocabulary (Kern, 1989; Laufer, 2003; Gunderson, 2009). “Both English and information technology are tools-to allow individuals to participate fully in society” (Warshcauer, 2002, p. 456). One tool that can be used in the classroom is a SMART board. The literature surrounding Interactive Whiteboards has indicated that students have a positive perception of them (Beeland, 2002; Schut, 2007; Hall & Higgins, 2005).

Two major points that came out in my literature review were the following:

1) Laufer (2003) discovered that a word was most likely to be learned when taught intentionally and practiced in a productive word-focused activity when compared to learning vocabulary through an incidental reading activity.

2) In Lomicka’s (1998) study she discovered that glosses were very helpful especially when associated with an image. The study also found that when students were given definitions in their native language it helped the learning process.

Because of my interest in ESL Reading, Technology and SMART boards, I considered the idea of a “Virtual Word Wall” using a SMART board.

Using SMART notebook, a virtual word wall can be created. Each word on this virtual word wall can be linked to a separate page of definitions. On this page of definitions a combination of text, visuals and sounds is incorporated to help students develop a better understanding of the word presented.

By teaching vocabulary in my unit this way I am attempting to build word consciousness (Graves & Watts-Taffe, 2002). Also, I am creating visual knowledge structures to make content more comprehensible (Mohan, 1986; 2001). If the definition is not available on the virtual word wall there is a link provided on the page to an online dictionary. The online dictionary website also provides an auditory option where students can hear the word pronounced.

As I indicated earlier, one finding from my literature review indicated that when students were given definitions in their native language it helped the learning process (Lomicka, 1998). My virtual word wall attempts to provide students with this option by placing links to alternative language dictionary websites. Students are able to click on this link when they are not clear about a definition.


Beeland, W. D. (2002). Student engagement, visual learning and technology: Can interactive
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Graves, M. F. & Watts-Taffe, S.M. (2002). The place of word consciousness in a research-based
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Lomicka, L. L. (1998). ‘To gloss or not to gloss’: An investigation of reading comprehension
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Mohan, B. (1986). Language and Content. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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Davidson (Eds.), English as a second language in the mainstream: Teaching, learning, and identity (pp. 107-126). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Ltd.

Schut, C. R. (2007). Student perceptions of interactive whiteboards in a biology classroom. Unpublished M. Ed. thesis, Cedarville University, Cedarville, United States.

Warschauer, M. (2002). A developmental perspective on technology in language education.
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