We’re about to get deep.
I love a good aesthetic as much as the next person, but anchor charts are supposed to anchor learning. Our collective obsession with all things Pinterest/TPT perfect has us doing the MOST when we really could do the least, and it would be MORE effective.
There’s far too much effort on making things ‘pretty’ or ‘perfect’ and that’s not what students remember…or really what they learn from. They learn from what they can connect to. So let’s look at 5 questions to ask when thinking about how you are using anchor charts in your room.
Did I build it with the kids?
This is a biggie. When you build a chart with the students over time, they get used to referring to it for specific reasons. This is an important way to ‘anchor’ kids learning to visual models and tools in a classroom.
Did I model my thinking with it?
How do the kids know the says in which it can be used if you’re not using it to model what a good reader or mathematician does with it? I love to make charts with the students when we are working on steps in a process. It’s so helpful to the students to see how I might think through a process in real time. I often will have students go back through their own thinking with charts that we make in the class.
Was the chart developmentally appropriate?
There are all kinds of ways in which charts can be effective. There are equally as many ways that would make it ineffective. If we’re making charts inclusive, the fonts that we use need to be legible. We should use colors that are clearly readable. The main idea or concept should be centered in our work rather than decorative pieces. The content should be aligned to what students need to know for the lesson or unit. Making sure that you understand what is in the standard and aligning your chart to that will help you zero in on what is most important.
Does this practice or procedure align with my assessment?
Before googling for an anchor chart on Main Idea, it would be great to look at the quizzes and tests you’re giving on Main Idea so that you know where you’re trying to get kids to go. Sometimes, I’ll find a great chart online, and then I look at what I need to get my students to understand or demonstrate and I realize that the chart will need to be ‘tweaked’. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing that! There are so many great ideas out there, but you need to make them work in the best way possible for you and your learners.
Do I keep bringing the kids’ focus back to the chart throughout a lesson or unit?
Kids will emphasize what you tell them is important. Certainly a way that we can make something relevant to them is to be excited. Everyone loves good energy! If you only bring energy on the first day you build the chart, and its vital to them processing specific information you should be bringing their focus back to the chart frequently throughout the lesson or unit. Ask kids to use the chart to go through their process. Remind them to use the bullet points to explain specific steps or thinking they did.
Anchor charts are still and will probably always be a part of student engagement and learning. When we can make the most out of visual aids in the classroom, we support student learning by providing needed scaffolding for all students.
Happy anchor charting!