This is a guest blog post from first-grade teacher Lyssa Sahadevan that originally ran in December 2013. If you like what you read here, you can see more of Lyssa's posts here, or check out her own blog here!
The Power of Anchor Charts
An anchor chart outlines or describes procedures, processes, and strategies on a particular theme or topic and is posted in the classroom for reference by students. Anchor charts are kind of the thing right now. That makes me super happy. I love a good anchor chart. I love thinking about what we are learning and building an anchor chart with my students. I love pointing them out to a student who needs a resource while working independently. I love sharing anchors with my colleagues. I love stumbling upon one and making a few adjustments so it will fit the needs of my students. I even have a whole Pinterest board for anchors I love!
All of this anchor-loving reminds me of a conversation I recently had with tablemates at a workshop. While I do not claim to be an anchor-chart expert and some did not agree with my responses, it was a great conversation! Here are the things they asked me, and my answers.
How do you get students to use the anchor charts?
I use the anchor chart for the unit/skill each day as a teaching tool and refer to it as a resource. When I hang the very first anchor chart during back-to-school, we have a conversation about how our walls are plain, but they will soon be filled with resources we can use. I act as though I am hanging a fine piece of artwork—“Wow, boys and girls, check out this resource you can use as you write!” I make a big deal of the chart that first day. After gaining the attention of the class, I share that Student A used a resource in our classroom. I have Student A walk over and point to the chart and explain. By fall, they’ve got it!
Do you laminate your anchor charts?
No. I premake some of the parts like sticky notes or the header, but I do not laminate. I want students to know we are creating this together as a resource for what we are learning right now, not as a reminder of what I did with last year’s class. Making them each year is a bit of work, but it is worth it!
So, no laminated charts in your room?
Ha! I have some store bought laminated charts with words for each month of the year. We change them out each month and add to them. The ABCs on my wall are store bought too.
If you hang every anchor chart, your room must be covered! How do you do it?
As a class, we have a conversation about our anchor charts at the end of a unit or the beginning of a new unit. Sometimes we decide they can stay, other times we agree we have mastered the skill. Some anchors, like our question words and temporal words, stay up all year. They need them and refer to them often. With that said, I do not always leave the decision up to my first-graders. There are times that a chart needs to go. I make a smaller version (index card) and provide that to students who need that resource. Chances are good that those students would not be checking the anchor anyway!
How do you manage all those charts?
I take pictures with my phone and print them. I then place the pictures in my unit plans so I can easily reference them next time. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that this printing and putting the charts where they belong may not happen until May! The actual charts are often sent home with students.
Do you go back and "fancy up" your anchor charts?
No. I try to think about their purpose. Is the anchor chart a decoration or a tool? Should I spend my time planning a small group, writing notes in their writing folders, or jazzing up a chart? Jazzing up a chart usually does not win! Of course, I do write them neatly. They are colorful, often have student samples with them, and they are placed in their perfect spot in our classroom as decided by the students. I am pretty proud of a chart I made for a famous penguin character. I traced it though and my class colored it! Maybe I should let them start jazzing up the anchors!
If you have anchor chart tips and tricks you'd like to share, write about them in our comment section! We'd love to hear your ideas!
Lyssa Sahadevan is a first-grade teacher in Marietta, GA. She loves reader's and writer's workshop, is a former Teacher of the Year, and shares ideas at www.mymommyreads.com.
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