Anchor Chart Intervention! Secrets to Making Effective AND Well-Designed Anchor Charts

Minds in Bloom is very happy to present Michael Friermood and his guest post on anchor charts. We know you’ll find this very informative!

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.

You don’t have to be an artist to make a great anchor chart. I mean, you can be an artist; it’s just not a requirement. It would be helpful if you are a teacher, though. Are you in?

I see teachers sometimes cringe when the topic of making an anchor chart pops up. They aren’t necessarily cringing at the thought of all anchor charts. Just their anchor charts. I hear things like, “My anchor charts look terrible,” “My students don’t even look at them,” and “All I do is fumble through the whole lesson when I’m making it, and I start sweating.”

Well, I’d like to share some tips and tricks on making a great anchor chart, one that will do its job of anchoring students’ thinking to a strong model of a concept or a process, and one that is well-designed without taking forever to make. I’m going to focus on making anchor charts for reading comprehension strategies, but much of what I have to say can be applied to any sort of anchor chart.

We’re about to start our intervention now. If your anxiety level just ticked up, take a deep breath and repeat after me… “I am not creating a masterpiece. I am creating a tool.” And this one… “This piece of paper need not last forever.” One more… “I can make this chart be effective AND look good.” If you start getting worked up again later on, just come back to this paragraph and repeat those mantras. Here, I’ll put a star by it so you can reference it easily: *Rather than showing you a bunch of anchor charts about different comprehension strategies, I want to show you just one, and really dissect it. Below is an anchor chart I made for the strategy: “Inferring a Character’s Feelings.” It’s the one we’ll use.

 

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.

 

Use Space Strategically

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.

Think about the chart in sections. Mentally breaking the space into thirds can help you organize the chart, and thirds are naturally pleasing to the eye. But no measuring! Exactness is not necessary and will just stress you out. You won’t know how much space you’ll really need in each section until you are waist deep anyway.

Let’s look at what might fit inside each third.

 

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.
In the top third of the chart, I put a title and my learning target (student-friendly objective). If I’m using a text during the lesson, then I’ll note that, as well. What irks many teachers is not getting their title centered perfectly. Centering is hard to get exact, so why bother? When I align my title on the left side, it frees up that nice little chunk of space on the right to add my target.

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.
In the middle third of the chart is where I record the most important pieces of the strategy I’m trying to teach. What will be most helpful for students to know and remember? Sometimes I write complete sentences, but I always look for chances to organize information even further with a table, a chart, or a bullet-point list. I also look to add simple visuals with which students can connect. Don’t go rolling your eyes at me saying you can’t draw. Think of them like symbols, not drawings.

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.

In the bottom third of the chart, I think it’s really important to have a record of a strong example. I model the strategy aloud with students, and record my thinking in the SAME FORMAT in which I’m going to want students to respond. Whether it’s a reader’s notebook, a graphic organizer, or a sticky note, I draw an enlarged version on the chart to use for my example.

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.But don’t stop there! Notice the cues and tips on the left side of the notebook page. During the lesson, in addition to modeling the thinking behind using the reading strategy, I also want to capture my thinking about the response itself. I want to anchor it down so that when a student gets stuck on his own response, these cues can be a bridge to get on track.

Step back now and look at the whole chart again. You can see our “thirds” and even smaller sections within.

Use Color and Line Strategically

Color can brighten up an anchor chart, or it can look like a rainbow exploded. To avoid getting too color-happy, try to be purposeful with the colors you choose. Use color to help organize content and draw attention to certain information. How?

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.I normally pick out three colors to make an anchor chart, not including a black or gray marker that I keep on hand. I want two of these colors to be similar: I’ll use them for the majority of the chart. Picking similar colors, or different shades of the same color, is easier if you have a wide range from which to choose. Every year I buy a pack of Classic, Assorted, and Bold Crayola® markers for this reason. The subtle difference between your two main colors will help distinguish parts from each other without pulling attention in too many directions. Then, I want the third marker to be an accent color that I’ll use less often. It will contrast nicely to make certain sections stand out.

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.Just like with color, your lines matter, too! This is the other reason I like normal, conical-tip Crayola® markers so much. I can use the point for smaller lettering or thin lines, press a little harder to make something bold, or turn the marker sideways to get full-on thick. This applies not only when I’m writing actual words but also with lines that divide up sections of the chart or that frame certain chunks of text.

What to Do with Anchor Charts Before, During, and After the Lesson

I’m a proponent of creating the majority of an anchor chart right there with the students during the lesson. The power of an anchor chart multiplies when students actually see it being built. They make connections from what you are saying to what you are making permanent on the chart. I do like to have the “top third” information (strategy title and learning target) already written prior to the lesson. This saves a couple of minutes of lesson time, but more importantly, it gives students a little taste of what’s coming, and it helps me get off to a focused start to the lesson.

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.Sometimes a strategy lesson might be pretty involved, or maybe it’s the first time I’m teaching it, and I want to be a little more planned out. If that’s the case, I might  sketch out some of the “middle third” beforehand, but I’ll flip the chart up and clip it so I can reveal exactly what I want at the appropriate moments of my lesson.

But at the very least, I always want to add the most vital parts to my anchor chart during the lesson. That would include most of the “middle third” and all of the “bottom third.”

In my experience, two reasons cause a student to refer to an anchor chart: (1) because they remember being part of its creation and (2) because I refer to it. So, for a reading strategy, I try to keep the anchor chart displayed in order to reference it during follow-up lessons or small group teaching. But after my kids have had practice with the strategy, I take the chart down. I may hold onto it for individual students struggling with the strategy, but I rarely keep a strategy anchor chart displayed permanently. If I did, the sheer number of them would make them fade into wallpaper.

An Anchor Chart Template

I’ve taken some of the tips we talked about above and put them into a sort of anchor-chart-for-anchor-charts. It’s not the only right way to make an anchor chart. Plenty of other styles and philosophies are just as valid. But hey, if you need someplace to start, here’s one:

An anchor chart can and should be a useful teaching tool, but sometimes teachers hang too many around the classroom or make them too distracting. Our guest blogger has crafted an excellent post about secrets to making and using anchor charts to make them be effective instructional tools. Click through to read the post.
Don’t feel like every time you touch marker to chart pad, you need to be aware of all these factors and options and their grand effects on your students. Clearly, you want to be focused on teaching. But, by incorporating a few of these tips and tricks, your anchor charts might just become more organized, more appealing, and more valuable to your students. And that is something to breathe easy about.

The Thinker BuilderMichael Friermood is a third grade teacher who encourages deep, bold thinking from his students. He has taught at the elementary level for ten years. You can find more fresh ideas for your classroom at his blog, The Thinker Builder.
Fraction Anchor Charts
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