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


dayle timmons said...

Wow - this quite a piece of professional development!

Melanie Holtsman said...

What a wealth of information and help for teachers that are new and teachers looking for ideas for using anchor charts. Amazing resource!

Mrs.S said...

I love the idea of all these anchor charts. But how do you find room for them on your walls? And do the walls get too busy with all the info up there?

Suzanne said...

Mrs. S,
Indeed, we do have a classroom full of Anchor Chart artifacts. Many times, the current charts hanging in the room are around their current area of study. So, if teachers are in a narrative unit, you might find all charts created within that unit. When the unit is finished, teachers typically hang the charts on a garment rack they've purchased from Walmart. The students and teachers have access to all the charts hanging on the garment rack so they can easily be accessed.

The charts that tend to stay up all the time are critical pieces that the students may need to reference regardless of their area of study. For example, in a First Grade classroom, the teacher may keep the Math Combinations of 10 charts up all year.

In addition, many teachers departmentalize their walls for ease of use by students. They have a math wall, science wall, reading wall, and writing wall.

Perhaps, I will get the time in the future to walk a room and create a post based around that one classroom. That may give you a better idea of how we manage the wall space. If you let me know your grade level, I can walk that particular grade level classroom.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, but unfortunately the anchor chart examples are not longer showing up with this post. Is it possible for you to repost the anchor chart examples/pictures? Thanks!

Paul Aleckson said...

Yes, can you please repost the examples of anchor charts.

Suzanne said...

Unfortunately, has closed and the anchor charts are no longer visible for me to recover. However, this is a hot topic and one that I've received many emails about, so I will be snapping pictures as soon as the school year gets underway toward the end of the month and I will repost pictures as soon as possible. Sorry!