Anchor Charts

Anchor charts have been on my mind lately.  I believe they can be a powerful tool in Workshop, yet I think I haven’t quite tapped into their power.  Therefore,  I’ve been considering these questions:

  • How should anchor charts be created?
  • What makes anchor charts most useful to students?
  • Do anchor charts lift the level of my instruction?  Lift the level of students’ work?

Here are some of my thoughts after paying attention for the past four months.

  • The best anchor charts evolve when I spend time gathering ideas and input  from students about a concept during a minilesson.  Then I process the lesson, as well as their ideas & make a chart which captures the big idea.  Then the next day I continue the thinking from the previous minilesson with the organized and meaningful anchor chart.
  • Creating “mini-charts” (a typed version of the chart) for students to keep is worthwhile.  I’ve found there are two groups of students in my classroom:  those who look up at the wall for information; and those who prefer to have their own record of information to refer to.  Another advantage is minicharts make the teaching accessible outside of the classroom.
  • I think anchor charts which are added to over time are powerful.  Right now there is a chart in my classroom titled:  Readers and Writers Consider . . . We’ve collected ways we think about a text (whether we are reading or writing one).  I appreciate how tracks of my teaching are documented over time.
  • Use them over and over and over.  If I’m not referring to an anchor chart, then I take it down.  It becomes meaningful to students when I am intentional about using it in minilessons, conferring, and sharing.
  • Group like ideas.  I’m considering a systematic approach to hanging the charts on the wall.  I’m considering hanging all the “reading” charts together; all the “thinking strategy” charts together; all the writing charts together.  I’m not sure if this is something I will actually do or if I just like the logic and order this idea provides.  :)
  • Currently my anchor charts are held be magnetic clips and stay on the board.  I move them “front and center” when I’m referring to a particular chart for the day.
  • I’m working toward designing charts which are accessible for both readers and writers.  Today I created an anchor chart titled:  Ways Writers Help Readers VISUALIZE.  The nice thing about this chart is my students used it today as readers who were identifying places in their reading where vivid images were created.  When we come back from break they will use it as writers who are crafting scenes.
  • I like the way anchor charts can make abstract ideas visible.  They leave tracks of my instruction throughout the classroom and provide students with a constant reminder of our work as readers and writers.

There is so much more I could write about anchor charts as I process my new understandings and really pay attention to their role in Workshop.  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about anchor charts.  What are your responses to my guiding questions?  What are some of the things you wonder about in regards to anchor charts.  Feel free to leave a comment and share your thinking.