Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Mindful Approaches to Classroom Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are a must-have teaching tool in my classroom. They have become a natural component of many lesson plans and range from displaying classroom procedures and expectations to demonstrating subject-based content in math, language arts, science, and history. Some are even created to provide positive, motivational messages for students.

Anchor charts are much more than just cute, colorful posters displayed in the classroom. In fact, you might be surprised as you walk into my room on the first day of school. You would see that most of my walls and bulletin boards are pretty bare. They never stay that way for long! I know the students will take part in the process of creating all the anchor charts that hang in the room during the year. This is one way I help students take ownership over their learning while also facilitating an inclusive classroom culture.

Like me, so many teachers are already implementing anchor charts as tools in the classroom. With that in mind, the focus of this blog post is how we can be more mindful and strategic in the creation and placement of our classroom anchor charts.

So, here are:

Mindful Approaches to Anchor Chart Creation

1- Design

The purpose of an anchor chart is to make thinking and learning visible. Upon first glance, anchor charts should express a clear purpose. Remember- less is more! Select and include only the most relevant information.   Use darker colors to record the key information and use light colors for accenting and highlighting. I try to include a combination of colors, words, and images to stimulate strong imagery and recall within students' brains.

2- Timing

Anchor charts reflect student learning and are tied to classroom content. Create charts with studentsduring instruction rather than ahead of time. If you're anything like me, this may mean your "charts on the fly" won't look as Pinterest-worthy, but they WILL maximize student ownership. To lessen those chart-fail moments, I've learned to sketch what I envision on a sticky note before creating it with kids.

To avoid a chart-cluttered classroom, display only the students' most current learning and/or the concepts you want to consistently emphasize during the year. This may mean taking down or covering previous anchor charts. Because my curriculum spirals and I love to make  cross-curricular connections during lessons, I tend to laminate and store our old anchor charts so I can pull them out (or uncover them) as we revisit and reuse them throughout the year.

Mindful Approaches to Anchor Chart Placement

3- Location

Physically anchor each subject's charts to a specific location or area in the room. By doing so, students can quickly and easily locate the chart they intend to use as a reference. For example, my students know to look by the whiteboard for our math anchor charts, by the back window to access writing charts, and on the wall nearest the door to recall our newest science concepts.

4- High Altitude

Did you know the height at which teachers place anchor charts makes a difference? I've only recently learned these amazing tidbits and I'm so excited to share them with you too!

Content-based anchor charts are typically created to help students remember information. One way to aid students in recalling information is by placing the anchor chart up high. A high placement requires students to look up to see a chart's visual content. When a student looks up, the visual cortex is being accessed in the brain. The visual cortex aids in visual memory and recall.  (If you want to test this out, watch students' eyes closely as you ask them to recall how their bedrooms are laid out, or what their bedspreads look like. Chances are they will look up as they begin to respond because they are recalling the information with the assistance of the visual cortex!)

5- Low Altitude

Not all anchor charts in my room are used to display subject-based content learning. Some of our charts focus on character development, social awareness, and camaraderie.  These types of messages are often consumed by the brain unconsciously. Anchor charts that motivate and inspire are best placed at the students' seated ear level or lower (like on their desks). This means those charts made for character development, affirmations, and positive messages should claim the real estate below content-based anchor charts.

These are just a few strategies I try to be mindful of when using anchor charts in the classroom.
I learned many of these tips while training in the Quantum Learning teaching method (which I love)! You can read more about Quantum's Teacher Resources here.

If you could use a jump start with literacy anchor chart suggestions, check out our Close Reading Anchor Chart Bundle.

Happy Charting!

Friday, April 7, 2017

10 Days to Summer Survival Kit

10 Days Until Summer Survival Kit Countdown

You sigh as you glance at your 'Days 'til Summer' countdown chain and think it still looks far too long. Guided reading and text books are already turned in. The crayons are broken and you have an overflowing box of scrap paper. You think to yourself, "How in the world am I going to keep these kids entertained for the next two weeks?"...

All teachers know the last 10 days before summer break are challenging to fill. It is nearly impossible to keep students engaged in educational activities. It is also difficult to teach kids amidst the chaos that the last two weeks entail.  It is a struggle to fill time between field day, end-of-year assemblies, and year book signings. This year we have found the perfect combination of educational activities and time-consuming projects that will keep students engaged, entertained, and out of mischief. 

We had such amazing feedback from our popular resource, the  12 Days of Christmas in the Classroom, that we decided to do a similar countdown kit for the last two weeks of school. With these 10 survival kit lesson plans and activities, students will race to school, excited for what each new day has to offer.  Teachers will be relieved that they don't have to figure out what to do with the long, tedious days before summer break. 

Here is a sampling of some of the days included in our survival kit. Check it out!

Survival Kit 1: Summer Safety Day

(above image shows materials for grades 1-2. Also available for grades 3-4 and 5-6)

The countdown starts with "Summer Safety Day." 1st and 2nd graders will read or listen to safety articles, then write safety tips they feel are important to remember this summer. Students will also listen to a story from the suggested book list (or any book on summer safety) and write a summer safety flip book in response to the text.  For math, students will review telling time. They will participate in a roam-the-room activity to figure out what time they need to apply sunscreen each day, then will complete a telling time worksheet. During science, students will conduct a sunscreen experiment outside.  If time permits, students will design a pool safety poster, create a sunscreen commercial, make a melted crayon art project, and complete a safety word search. To download the summer safety word search for free click here. 


Survival Kit 7: Nature Day

(above image shows materials for grades 3-4. Also available for grades 1-2 and 5-6)
As a 3rd or 4th grade class you will start the day by reading a text from the suggested book list. Students will then fill out an informational text graphic organizer. Next, students will read about the informational article on the Rocky Mountains. Based on the information learned, students will have to decide what 10 items they would pack for a camping trip. Next, students will create a paper sack nature journal. Then students will calculate areas in nature for math. This pack also includes a making-a-sundial science experiment, a fun nature scavenger hunt, a nature art project, and a list of camping songs to sing as a class. To download the nature scavenger hunt for free click here

                   Survival Kit 8: Germ Day
               (above image shows materials for grades 5-6. Also available for grades 1-2 and 3-4)

As a 5th or 6th grade class students will start germ day by independently reading the printable informational article on germs and then answering questions about germs on the graphic organizer. Next, students will write a public service announcement persuasive poster about germs. Then, students will find the exponential growth of germs for math. For science, students will have a blast trying to figure out if there are locations around the school that have more germs than others by using slices of potatoes. Students will record their findings on a recording sheet. This pack also includes other fun germ activities and a germ related craft. This is the perfect day to have students deep clean the classroom and get rid of all the germs for the end of the year. 

Here are all the kits that our 10 Days Survival Kit has to offer: 
Survival Kit 1- Summer Safety Day
Survival Kit 2 -Weather Day
Survival Kit 3- Summer Holidays Day
Survival Kit 4- National Parks Day
Survival Kit 5- Aeronautics Day
Survival Kit 6- Game Day
Survival Kit 7- Nature Day
Survival Kit 8- Germ Day
Survival Kit 9- Water Day
Survival Kit 10- Reflection Day 

Each day includes lesson plans for reading, writing, math, science, art, and additional fun activities that will be sure to fill the entire day. Kits are available for grades 1-2, grades 3-4, and grades 5-6. Each kit is similar, but differentiated to accommodate the needs of the different grades and reviews appropriate math standards. 

To prepare for the 10 Days Survival Kit you will need some type of container to store each day’s materials.  We purchased 10 gift boxes from Amazon and glued the printable suitcase label on each box. 

The read-aloud books are not included.  Check out your local library.   Most can be purchased online or in Scholastic’s book club orders.  These books are just suggestions.  You can also choose your own books that go along with the daily theme.Impress your principal, parents, and even yourself as students engage in both fun AND learning right up until the last bell rings before summer! You won't have to wonder what to do with those last 10 days before summer break ever again. 

Countdown Lesson Plans for 1st-2nd

Countdown Lesson Plans for 3rd-4th
Countdown Lesson Plans for 5th-6th

This survival kit does take some preparation before launching it.  We promise it will be worth it! Not only does it take away the teacher's guesswork of how to fill the time each day, it also motivates students as each day's box is revealed with exciting contents to keep them eagerly engaged all day long.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

K-1 Read-Alouds for February

We hope your students are enjoying these read-alouds as much as our kindergartners and first graders are. We love seeing the students' excitement as we introduce the new book each week. There were so many fun books to pick from for our February pack, it was hard to choose just 5. 

With Groundhog's Day at the beginning of the month we knew we needed to include a groundhog book. We found 'Groundhog's Runaway Shadow' by David Biedrzycki. It is such a fun book! This book puts a fun spin on traditional Groundhog's Day books. In this story Phil's shadow doesn't do what it's supposed to and it starts to annoy Phil. For the first lesson we discussed the character's, problem and solution in the story. The second lesson guides students to look at how the shadow made Phil feel. For the third lesson students look at what the illustrations show the shadow doing and compare it to what the text tells them. Finally, for the fourth lesson students write what they would do with their own shadow and complete the groundhog craftivity.
The second book we chose was 'Love is my Favorite Thing' by Emma Chichester Clark. This darling book is about a dog named Plum who loves so many different things, but love is her favorite. Plum keeps getting in trouble by doing typical things that most dogs do. She starts to worry that her owners won't love her anymore. For the first lesson students brainstorm all of the things that Plum loves. The second lesson has students think of the different causes (what Plum does that gets her into trouble) and effects (what her owners say to her) throughout the story. Finally for the third lesson students make the craftivity by brainstorming all of the things that they love and write about their favorite thing. So cute!

This adorable series by Rachel Bright is irresistible.  Monster feels down because he doesn't fit in in a world of cute, fluffy things.  He ventures out to the Big Wide World to find someone who will love him.  He searches high and low to no avail.  Just when he is ready to give up, something unexpected and wonderful happens.  For the first lesson, students make a map of the story's setting, which will help them recall key ideas from the story.  The second lesson has students analyze how Monster's feeling change in response to events.  Next, students think about how illustrations and text work together to tell the story.  As a culminating activity, students make their own Love Monster Craftivity.  

Please Mr. Panda is a simple story with a positive message. Mr. Panda offers each of his friends a doughnut.  Penguin, Skunk, Ostrich, and Whale all lack manners.  They make demands, are picky, and forget to say "please" or "thank you." He finally finds a friendly lemur who remembers his manners and gives him ALL his doughnuts.  Students have to infer the reason Panda keeps changing his mind.  The first lesson, students sequence the story by putting the characters in order.  The second lesson, students learn about dialogue by completing a speech bubble activity.  The last lesson has students consider cause and effect as they analyze the moral of the story.  After students have a deep understanding of the story, they will love the supplementary craftivity and retelling puppets. 

National Geographic Kids Readers are perfect for close reading.  They are complex enough to merit several revisits and contain beautiful photographs and a variety of text features.  The first lesson students compete a koalas idea map to recall key ideas and details from the text.  The second lesson students learn about the author's point by listing reasons the author gives to support information.  Students will use the information and facts learned in previous lessons to write an "If I were a Koala" informational book.  Students will have a blast making koala masks to present their books to the class, which is perfect for hitting speaking and listening standards.  

You can purchase each of these read-alouds from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Your students will love these read-alouds and you will love meeting so many Reading Literature Core Standards. Download our free scope and sequence to see what standards are being taught in each read-aloud.