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!

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