Anchor charts...form vs function

Anybody who has taught for any length of time knows that anchor charts can be on unbelievable resource for the classroom teacher and for the students.

Anybody who has been on Pinterest knows that you can find an anchor chart for just about anything! Many of them are adorably decorated and make us all wish we were that creative.

I can't help but wonder, however, if people are forgetting the intent of the anchor chart.  As much as we want our classrooms to be beautiful inviting places, anchor charts are meant to be used with and for students, not for decoration.

Don't get me wrong… The charts do need to be legible and accessible.  I thought I would share my technique for keeping the students involved but still making a product that is worth hanging up and referring to later.

Here is an example full of a chart that I worked on with my class last week. We are kicking off our poetry unit and I wanted to get a feeling for what they already knew.  They had some good understanding, but it really was only a few students who were participating in the discussion. I jotted down their ideas knowing that it was not the final version of the chart we would have hanging in our room.

After I had written down their ideas and added some extra details based on the discussion (note the little lines "webbing" off the main ideas), I asked the students to look at the list and make some decisions about which items might work well together on our final chart.  I told him when I finished the final chart, I would like similar information together. They worked with me to color code the chart the way they felt it should be organized. This opened the lesson open up to all students, even if they did not have anything to contribute to the initial discussion.

After we finished talking about the chart, I took down our rough copy and that night I made a final copy that we could refer to.

I try to do this as often as I can, because I want the information on the charts to really belong to my students, even if I do end up editing it or reorganizing it. Sometimes I worry that we see so many great ideas out there that we presented to our class and forget that the reason we are making these great charts is to deepen their understanding, and to give them something to refer to.  

Hanging next to this anchor chart on our poetry wall will be a new chart that we build together that will talk about the elements of poetry that we build together as we work through our unit. Just thought I would give us all a little something to think about as we check out Pinterest next time! Trust me… I am as guilty as the next person for looking at cute anchor charts and thinking that I need to use them in my own class.  I can certainly use all those great charts as inspiration, but I need to remember that it should be my students running the show, not a pin from another class!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!


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  2. Thanks for saying this. Unless anchor charts are done WITH students (instead of FOR them) during instruction, they won't be useful for the kids who need them most. Y'all have fun with the poetry!

    1. Thanks! I guess it's something I've been thinking about lately...when I am avoiding work by snooping around Pinterest. It is easy to get sucked into the cuteness out there! :)

  3. Totally agree! I love the look of all the cute charts and such, but man do my kids take to a chart when they see their own ideas up there. They know where to look when to reference it and use it without me having to remind them. I often plan out ahead of time how the chart will be organized and just sketch/jot it on a post it and hang it by our chart paper so when we start to share ideas and I get to recording them down, it stays organized. It can't be an 'anchor' if the students didn't help in it's creation. :)

    Tales of a Teacher

  4. I agree. There are so many creative/adorable charts out there that when looking at my own charts I start to feel a little inadequate. Your post has reaffirmed my belief that my charts don't have to be super cute to do their job- which is to help anchor my students learning and that they have to have ownership in creating it together to really make it stick. Thanks for posting!
    On the Trail of Learning

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  6. Good point! I do a mix; I do a few Pinterest inspired anchor charts in advance when I feel that are very succinct and I want to get something specific across.

    For the charts I make with my class, I always write them on the board first and take a photo to redo it at home. It saves a sheet of chart paper that way. :) Plus, some board notes never make it to chart form (we only have so much wall space after all) so I can just go in and neaten up the "title" or other areas, take a photo and post it to our classroom blog for homework help. They get excited when the see me start erasing and rewriting a title because they know it's going straight to blog form before they even get off the bus that afternoon, haha.

  7. I agree...I do a lot of "pre charts" on my white board before they ever make it to paper! :)

  8. Great the pre-chart on the white board AND the advice to remember that the charts should be true to what the STUDENTS believe, know, and have learned.