Saturday, November 27, 2010

Math Anchor Charts

My last post described the anchor chart as a learning tool in classrooms across our school. I highlighted snapshots I took based on our reading instruction. I thought you might also like a glimpse into our anchor charts in mathematics.

Some math anchors are displayed to help students conceptually understand and remember mathematical vocabulary.

Others remind students to think about their noticings or connections as they pertain to specific lessons including math games.

Anchor charts also highlight foundational learning like finding combinations of numbers. A students ability to decompose a number is critical for developing number sense and flexibility when solving problems. Many mental math strategies come back to a student's ability to decompose numbers efficiently. In addition to combinations, students also work with doubles and near doubles as they build number sense. Often times, you will find charts like these hanging in our primary classrooms.

Furthermore, strategy charts play a prominent role. They are not charts that are premade and hung before instruction, rather are anchors built with students as new strategies emerge. Some charts show single strategies while others display many strategies.
Often times, when the chart lists more than one strategy, the strategies are listed by order of efficiency. The visual reminder helps students as they move along their learning pathway. In this case, a student's work may also become an anchor chart on the classroom wall as a reminder of a particular strategy that has been highlighted in a classroom math discussion.

We use Math Investigations as our 60 minute Math Workshop curriculum tool. Like many conceptually based programs, MI embeds story problems into many of their math lessons. Therefore, it is common for teachers to have anchor charts which guide a student through solving a problem. Sometimes the anchors are found on a student's desk, some are in their math journals, and others hang on the classroom walls.

Still other math anchors assist in building student knowledge throughout units of study or remind students of necessary skills like multiplication and division notations.

Regardless of their content, all math anchor charts have the same intent-to be a visual reminder to students of the thinking that has taken place and to act as a springboard for further learning. Classrooms displaying rich math anchor charts offer students the environment they need to become effective mathematicians.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anchor Charts

Anchor Charts are artifacts of classroom learning communities. An anchor, by definition, is an object used to hold something firmly in place. Anchors are a source of stability and security. Thrown overboard, the anchor stables the boat holding it firmly in a desired location. Likewise, an Anchor Chart displayed in a classroom learning community anchors student thinking while offering a source of visual reference for continued support as the learner moves forward. Classrooms with rich anchor support leave little doubt about what a student is expected to learn and offer a “public trail” of thinking, a collection of learning.

Debbie Miller, in her book, Teaching with Intention, states “In our anchor classroom, evidence of student thinking was everywhere; anchor charts, student responses, and quotes adorned the walls and boards making thinking public and permanent. The questions, quotes, ideas, and big understandings displayed throughout the room reflected the real voices of real kids.”

Cornerstone Literacy Fellow, Wendy Seger, highlights the features of an Anchor Chart. She says, an anchor chart should have a single focus. Sometimes a teaching standard is broad by design, such as Students will write with a clear focus, coherent organization, and sufficient detail. To be able to meet this standard, teachers would have to help students accomplish the many more discrete skills that build capacity to meet this writing expectation. Those discrete skills make up the topics of the crafting lessons that are taught in day-to-day work within the Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop. It is those discrete skills that are represented on an anchor chart. The anchor chart is co-constructed with students. The brain based research of Marcia Tate and other support the use of visuals to incorporate new learning into memory. When the visual represents a learning event that includes the students, it becomes an artifact of the learning experience. It has meaning for the students because they participated in its construction. The anchor chart has an organized appearance. The importance of clarity is paramount to understanding. If the students can’t read the chart or find the statement of explicit instruction, the chart will be no support to the students when they return back to the chart as a scaffold. The anchor chart matches learners’ developmental levels. The language, the amount of information, the length of the sentences, and the size of lettering should all match the cognitive level of the students whom the chart will serve. The anchor chart supports on-going learning. One of the most important considerations for learning is whether or not the chart is relevant and used by the students. Charts should reflect recent crafting lessons or concepts that need continued scaffolding.

Prominently displayed in classrooms throughout our school, anchor charts are foundational artifacts making transparent the teaching and learning that are occurring at Chets Creek on a daily basis. For my Standards Based Bulletin Board this month, I decided to collect snapshots of anchor charts. By the end of my focus walk, I had hundreds of pictures from all subject areas. I had to narrow the topic to just reading for my board. I sorted the reading anchor charts in categories by standard and have included them in the slideshows below. These charts are a samples snapped from classrooms in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. I included only the intermediate standards. Each of the anchor charts, when considered singularly, do not meet the standard, however the collection of charts created throughout a unit of study work together to meet the elements of each standard.

The slideshows below highlight each of these Reading Categories:
Story Elements
Speaking and Listening
Rituals and Routines
Test Taking Strategies