Have you increased the amount of chart paper you order every year? Do your markers run out faster than years previously? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are an anchor chart master. If you answered no, well, you have probably noticed anchor charts on Pinterest, on Twitter, or even on the walls in classrooms in your building. However, do you know the purpose of anchor charts?
Why Anchor Charts?
Anchor charts are created during the mini-lesson to capture the strategies readers and writers need to be successful during independent reading and writing time. As you move through a unit of study, teachers and students add ideas to an anchor chart as they apply new learning, discover interesting ideas, or develop useful strategies for problem-solving or skill application.
Anchor charts serve as a resource tool for students during independent work time. To help create independent strategic readers and writers, we need to teach students how to use these tools. For these tools to be useful, we must refer to the charts during mini-lessons, strategy groups, and one-on-one conferring.
When do I Make my Anchor Charts?
When I first started using anchor charts in my room (many years ago…don’t ask), I would make them prior to the mini-lesson. However, I noticed that students were not even looking at the chart when I referred to it during the mini-lesson; therefore, I shifted to creating the charts with students. Students were now engaged during the creating process of the chart, and I was able to capture their thoughts and learning on the chart. The only downside was my charts were not as pretty, but I learned to let that go. The benefits of creating the charts with students far outweighed my poor handwriting. If that bothers you, you can always recreate the poster later.
What do I do After I Make the Chart?
You finished the mini-lessons that involve a chart, so now what? As long as you are in the same unit of study, you will need to keep the chart posted. Students need to be able to access this chart for strategies during this unit, so it should be in a place where students can easily see it. If students have to hunt around for chart (strategies), they are losing valuable independent work time.
In my classroom, I dedicated parts of my room to each content area. I also used the clothesline with clothes pins that hung from the ceiling - one for reading charts and one for writing. As you can imagine, I spent time scaling ladders, desks, or whatever to change posters. By having the charts clustered together, students knew exactly where to look for a needed strategy.
At the beginning of the year, you will probably need to create management and procedural charts for reading and writing. If the structures are the same (i.e. the jobs of the teacher and student during the mini-lesson), then you only need to create one chart. Once students are familiar with the procedures, you can remove the charts. At some point in the school year, you may need to revisit those charts so don’t get rid of them.
As we think about our classroom spaces, I would like you to think about what’s on your classroom walls. Are your anchor charts wallpaper or wallpower? Do your charts or pre-bought posters help create strategic independent readers and writers?