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Sound Wall Resources

For older students who struggle with reading challenges, sound walls can be an important instructional resource to make the phoneme (speech sound) to grapheme (print) connection. What’s preventing these students from making this connection? Often, it’s inaccurate or inconsistent recognition and production of the speech sounds. After all, if you can’t say ’em, you can’t read ’em and you certainly can’t spell ’em.

Many teachers who have recognized this problem assume that another dose of Heggerty, Barton, or others with phonemic awareness programs (I also have PA drills in my reading intervention programs) will do the trick, but this is not always the solution for all of your students. Practicing  phonemic isolation, segmenting, substitution, manipulation, reversals, etc., may not solve the problem if students do not know proper mouth formation and speech articulation. In the past, reading specialists and intervention teachers would refer students who lack these reading prerequisites to speech therapists, and this may indeed be necessary. But, with proper coaching, reading teachers can certainly assist most of their students who can’t recognize and produce speech sounds properly.

One  important tool that teachers are using to help students learn or re-learn the speech sounds is the instructional sound wall. Sound walls consist of the 43-45 phoneme-grapheme cards posted on the classroom wall and organized into two sections: vowels and consonants. If you are unfamiliar with what a sound wall looks like, the Louisiana Department of Education has produced a wonderful “how-to set up a sound wall” resource.

Vowel Valley and Consonant Sounds Sound Walls

Vowel Valley

Consonant Sounds

The different phonemes associated with vowels are arranged in a “valley” formation on the wall that looks like the opening of the mouth that happens when the vowel sounds are spoken. Vowel sounds produce unobstructed air flow through the mouth, unlike consonants.

The consonants, organized by “manners of articulation” proposed by Dr. Louisa Moats (2020) are posted as follows:

● Stops – airflow is completely obstructed by the lips
● Nasals – airflow is obstructed in the mouth, but released through the nose
● Affricates – begins as a stop, but ends as a fricative
● Fricatives – air flows, but friction is created by small separations between articulators
● Glides – no friction in the airflow, but changes in sound are produced by the placement of the tongue and lips
● Liquids – the tongue creates a partial closure in the mouth that redirects airflow

Sound-Spelling Cards

Animal Cards

Phoneme-Grapheme (Sound-Spelling) Card Components

Sounds: Sound-spelling cards include sound symbols, indicated by slanted lines. For example, /k/ and /r/. Note that the sounds are not the same as the alphabetic letters. The “c” as in card has the /k/ sound, not a /c/ sound. In my reading intervention programs, I include audio files on each digital card.

Pictures: The phoneme-grapheme cards usually feature a picture which has a name that emphasizes the focus sound. The picture acts as a mnemonic to cement the phoneme-grapheme relationship for students.

Phoneme-grapheme cards are useful tools for building phoneme awareness because the abstract sounds and symbols are now tied to concrete representations. Dr. Tim Shanahan also stresses the importance of practicing sound-picture connections.

Many teachers help students memorize the name of the card i.e., the picture, when introducing the sound indicated on the card. In my reading intervention programs, I teach animal chants, because all of my Animal Cards consist of animals.

Spellings: The common sound-spellings are also featured on the cards.  For example, in my reading intervention programs, I use animal cards with photographs that are suitable for older readers. The spellings include blanks to indicate their location within words and to help students select appropriate spellings. For example, if a student is spelling the word, betray, the “ai_” spelling choice would be eliminated from consideration, because the blank indicates that “ai” cannot end a syllable. The “_ay” would be a more informed selection. Here is a set of the Animal Card PDFs for your review.

Sound Wall Songs

To help students remember how to position and move the mouth, I’ve created songs which explain the mouth formations and sound production. The Vowel Valley Chant includes this music, the Animal Chants, and the Vowel Valley graphic representations for each of type of  vowel. The Consonant Sounds Chant also includes this music, the Animal Chants, and the consonant “manners of articulation” graphic representations for each of type of  consonant. Each is provided for your review.

Personal Sound Walls

To add to the traditional vowel valley and consonant sounds wall cards, I would suggest adding separate graphic representations of the sound-print subsections for individual students.

Fricatives: Personal Sound Wall

These “personal sound walls” might consist of separate short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, diphthongs, r-controlled vowels, organized in the classic Vowel Valley configuration.  Additionally, I suggest separate graphic representations of the consonant “manners of articulation” (see Dr. Moats’ organization above). My reading intervention programs include two versions of the Personal Sound Walls, which I include here for your review: Interactive Google Slides (with fill-in text boxes and audio files) and printable PDFs: Sound Wall Printables to print and laminate. With the laminated copies, students can use dry erase markers to write word examples, erase, and practice again.

Mouth Formation and Movement: A unique feature of the posted sound wall cards and “personal sound walls” is that they also include images (photographs or graphics) of mouths articulating the different phonemes, so that students can make the connection between what a phoneme sounds like and how their mouths are formed and move when they are saying that phoneme.

Teachers may choose to have a mirror nearby so that students may see their own mouths while using the sound wall.


Each of the above resources is included for teachers to review components of my two reading intervention programs. Click on the provided links to view video overviews and to download sample lessons.+

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Pennington Publishing’s THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM features both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). The word recognition components feature the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spelling Independent Practice 4. Heart Words Independent Practice 5. The Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables 1ith comprehension and word fluency practice for older readers. The program also includes sound boxes and personal sound walls for weekly review.  The language comprehension components feature comprehensive vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and syntax, syllabication, reading strategies, and game card lessons, worksheets, and activities. Word Recognition × Language Comprehension = Skillful Reading: The Simple View of Reading and the National Reading Panel Big 5.

If you only have time for a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) program, the The Science of Reading Intervention Program Word Recognition component (sold separately) features the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, plus the sound boxes and personal sound walls.

PREVIEW THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE for detailed product description and sample lessons.

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