The Power of Anchor Charts

April 9, 2014 Lindsey Graff

Last spring I had the opportunity to work with our district’s literacy coach in a 1-1 mentoring situation. My objective was two-fold:

1) Unpack the Common Core Standards for Reading
2) Incorporate the Gradual Release of Responsibility model into my instructional practice.

We worked together for weeks developing student-led reading groups, setting up reading response journals and implementing close reading lessons. I have continued to build upon the strategies and practices I learned from her over the course of this school year and I have seen great gains in my students’ reading responses and comprehension.

One of my greatest take-aways from our time together has been the incorporation of anchor charts in my classroom. I began implementing anchor charts for literacy, using the visuals that we develop as a class as a way to reinforce student discovery and learning. Soon, I began to integrate anchor charts into my instruction in math and English language arts as well.

Genre Characteristics
Throughout the year, my students and I embark upon numerous genre studies; some of which include historical fiction, science fiction, biography, and autobiography, just to name a few. The first step is to introduce a new genre by presenting a few mentor texts. As a class, we discuss what the texts have in common.

photo1 (1)lg resized 600

After we have identified the characteristics of the genre we are about to study, we build a definition of the genre together using the Genre Characteristics poster. The poster is then posted and referenced by students throughout the unit as they continue to explore other texts of the genre either independently or in small groups.

Download the Genre Characteristics graphic organizer for use in your classroom here.

No Excuse Words
I also use anchor charts as a responsive teaching tool in my language arts class. Each time I read through my students’ writing journals, I track words that are misspelled. After the first couple of writing assignments, I have a pretty good idea about commonly used words that students have trouble spelling. To make these words visible to students, I write them on a poster and display it for students to reference when writing their journal responses.

No Excuse Words Poster resized 600

I introduce these words to students as “No Excuse Words,” or words that they are expected to spell correctly in order to demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English spelling when writing, which is one of the Common Core Standards for English language arts. I add to this chart continually over the course of the year. Displaying this chart provides a consistent resource that allows students to learn from their own writing mistakes.

Place Value Chart
One of the most powerful anchor charts in my classroom is my Place Value Chart. In 6th grade, the Common Core Standards for math state that students should be able to fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. To be honest, many of my students still struggle with understanding place value as a base ten number system and remembering the names of the place values less than one.

Place Value Chart 1

Displaying this chart provides visual reinforcement of these concepts so students can focus on the new learning that takes place as they develop an understanding of how to perform operations on decimal numbers. The Place Value Chart poster is a tool that students often reference during class discussions. Although this is not an anchor chart that I create with my students, it is something that they use as a tool yearlong.

The Place Value Chart poster template is available in the VariQuest Design Center software using ID# VIS465.

To read more about best practices incorporating instruction into your classroom download this guide published by Expeditionary Learning.

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Julia Cremin is a 6th grade Reading, Language Arts and Math teacher at O'Keeffe Middle School in Madison, WI. She is certified in Elementary Education (grades 1-9) with a minor in Mathematics. This is her third year teaching middle school.

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