30 May 2016

6 Things You Must Know About Anchor Charts

Gone are the days when I would fill/decorate the walls of my classroom with pre-made posters found in various stores, catalogs, etc... Now, students and parents come in to a room in August that has nothing but empty bulletin boards. Breathe. There is always colorful paper, and cute border, and sometimes even headers, however, they are empty. They are waiting for my students.

Nearly EVERYTHING hanging on my walls now are anchor charts. But, what exactly are anchor charts? When should you make an anchor chart? What should you put on an anchor chart? Where should you hang them? How long do they stay on the wall? All excellent questions, and while I am by no means an expert, here's what works for me!

So what are anchor charts, anyway?
Anchor charts record my students thinking (and sometimes, mine), and highlight really important parts of a lesson.

Why use anchor charts?
Quite simply, they help my students. Students are able "anchor" their thinking to these charts. Throughout the day, I see my students talking about, referring to, and using the anchor charts to check their work, validate their points, and even as mentor texts when looking for words to spell and punctuation.

When do I decide an anchor chart is necessary?
Whenever there's something I want my students to remember or be able to refer to, I make an anchor chart. Usually this happens: when I'm introducing a topic or idea or modeling something (like writing) that I want my students to be able to refer back to. Really, you and your students should decide when an anchor chart is necessary. Sometimes, I haven't planned on making an anchor chart, and my students will let me know they need one. Ultimately, they are my deciding factor.

When do I make my anchor charts?
When I first started using anchor charts, I made them all ahead of time. I wanted my handwriting and pictures to be perfect. The spacing was perfect, there wasn't a single misspelling or awkwardly squashed in word. They truly were a thing of beauty. And then, I realized, my students didn't even look at them. Sure they made me happy, but seriously? What was the point?

Now, I plan out my anchor chart on a scrap piece of paper, and then use it as a guide for what I do WITH my students. It helps me keep my mini-lesson AND anchor chart to the point. Many times, I will write the title of the anchor chart and/or the essential question before the lesson. I'll create any sort of cute border, header, and if we're using some sort of chart, I make the lines and headers for each row/column. But the content? That truly comes from the mini-lesson, and always with my students!

It's amazing how my students actually USE the anchor charts now instead just looking pretty on the wall.

What do I do with an anchor chart after a lesson?
Sometimes, an anchor chart gets added to over several days, in which case it stays on my easel so that I can easily refer back to it. Once there's nothing more to add though, it goes on the wall. In my last classroom, different areas of the wall were designated for different content areas, and while I tried to do that this year, it's just so-so. Next year though, I plan on having more defined areas.

How long should I keep an anchor chart on the wall?
There's no set time limit. Many times, an anchor chart will stay on the wall for as long as we're talking about that topic. Sometimes, students let me know when they no longer need an anchor chart. For some charts, I sort of stagger them on top of each other so that students can see just the heading, and can easily flip to the page they need. Some charts guide our thinking all year, and so they stay up all year. It really just depends on what is on the anchor chart, what it's used for, how often students use it or need it, and what currents units are about.

Below are some examples of anchor charts I've made. I can assure you, there are "typos" - sorry, but that's "true life" - I'm writing fast, students are talking, or sharing ideas, and well, mistakes happen! I hope you find them helpful in some capacity! As I take more pictures, I'll had them! Feel free to pin them to Pinterest.

If you have any questions or comments about anchor charts, please share! I'm by no means, an anchor chart expert, but I have learned a lot about them, and continuously try to improve!


1 comment

  1. Love these! I'm a little bit economical on anchor charts because the paper is expensive and my school doesn't provide it. I should probably make more. They're always helpful.


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