Anchors Aweigh!

In a perfect world, we’d learn something once and know it for life. 
In reality, we can all use a spark of inspiration from time to time! Enter anchor charts, a familiar teaching tool designed to make thinking visible and serve as a reference, or anchor, for learners. Anchor charts transport students back to the original lesson, illustrating concepts from addition to text features. What makes for a successful anchor? We asked six teachers to share their top tips.


The Sum of its Parts

The Teacher: Morgan Berard, first-grade teacher, Live Oak Elementary, Lafayette, Louisiana, and blogger at First Grade Fresh

The Inspiration: “I wanted to allow students to use the addition anchor chart to remind them of what addition looks like and the multiple ways you can write it,” says Berard, who drew the illustration beforehand and then worked with her class to complete the chart during a lesson on sums. “I remind students to use the chart to find the word they’re looking for when explaining their answers.”

Make Your Own: Berard suggests representing a concept in multiple ways to reach every style of learner (see the “What it looks like!” section of this chart). “My hope is that each child will be able to find something that he or she can apply to deepen knowledge and understanding of the skill at hand,” Berard notes. It’s also important for the chart to remain uncluttered. “While creating an anchor chart, I always try to make one that will visually appeal to my students,” Berard adds. “The chart should be helpful to all students without being overwhelming to look at.”

Chart: Courtesy of Morgan Berard

Grammar Guru

The Teacher: Teresa Potosky, first-grade teacher, Dumont, New Jersey, and blogger at A Cupcake for the Teacher

The Inspiration: “We create our anchor charts 
as a class,” says Potosky, who worked with her students to produce these charts while studying
 a unit that covered nouns and adjectives. “My students give me words or pictures to include. Often, they will give me ideas that never even crossed my mind. During the day, students constantly refer to the charts. They use them to check their work, spell words, or find ideas.” Another source of inspiration: Pinterest, of course. “I usually browse Pinterest to see what else is out there. I may take bits and pieces from several charts and add my own twist.”

Make Your Own: Potosky’s top tip: “When you decide to make an anchor chart, don’t get caught up in making it pretty—at first. Instead, focus on the content. You can always go back and add more color, cute lettering, or pretty borders.” Potosky also adds a second tip: “You can even make a ‘sloppy copy’ with your students and re-create it later. Mr. Sketch Markers and Jumbo Crayola are my favorite tools.”

Chart: Courtesy of Teresa Potosky

 

Go Figure

The Teacher: Aisha Hoilett, fourth-grade math, science and social studies teacher, Bowman Ashe/Doolin K–8 Academy, Miami, and blogger at Fourth Grade Fun in Florida

The Inspiration: Hoilett uses this getting-to-know-you activity in the second week of school. Kids create their own multiplication and division sentences that provide answers to each question. Sentences can be posted as desired (for example, one student per week). Says Hoilett, “I wanted my students to make personal connections to math in their daily lives. If they realize the many ways that we use numbers in our lives, math will be less abstract.”

Make Your Own: Hoilett’s anchor chart philosophy begins with flexibility and reusability, which she calls “the name of the game. No chart is set in stone! I make adjustments each year.” She further explains, “I was inspired to create this chart by a colleague who got the idea from a friend at another school. I simply modified it to meet my students’ needs—for example, using multiplication and division, the backbones of fourth-grade math.”

Chart: Courtesy of Aisha Hoilett

 

Information Station

The Teacher: Kelly Benefield, fourth-grade reading and language arts teacher, Holly Pond Elementary, Cullman, Alabama, and blogger at Teaching Fourth

The Inspiration: “Fourth-grade students often confuse the different features in informational texts, so I wanted a colorful visual to help my students remember and identify text features,” Benefield says. After using this anchor chart as part of an introductory lesson on expository text features, Benefield hangs it in her classroom so students can refer back.

Make Your Own: Hoilett’s anchor chart philosophy begins with flexibility and reusability, which she calls “the name of the game. No chart is set in stone! I make adjustments each year.” She further explains, “I was inspired to create this chart by a colleague who got the idea from a friend at another school. I simply modified it to meet my students’ needs—for example, using multiplication and division, the backbones of fourth-grade math.”

Chart: Courtesy of Kelly Benefield

 


Piece by Piece

The Teacher: Jennyfer Murphine, instructional coach, Riverview Elementary, Vancouver, Washington, and blogger at The Accidental Teacher, Mom, Runner

The Inspiration: “This is a chart I created when 
I taught first grade,” Murphine says. “I began by reviewing the elements of fiction, and then writing each element onto the blank puzzle pieces. We read
 a story where I purposely left out an element (like setting or solution), and then discussed a summary of the story. Through conversation and effective questioning, students realized that one of the pieces was missing and how important it is to have all the pieces of a story to synthesize meaning.”

Make Your Own: Use a visual metaphor. “Take what your students have been learning and present it in a way that will be meaningful to them,” Murphine advises. “I used the puzzle metaphor because I realized that I had been teaching these concepts as separate ideas and I needed a way to show students how they fit together. A puzzle was a natural way to show this.” Murphine also notes that the metaphor needs to work for kids, adding, “My students will change from year to year, and I have to adapt my teaching to fit their learning.”

Chart: Courtesy of Jennyfer Murphine

 

A Wonder-Ful Collaboration

The Teacher: Christina Hiracheta, fifth-grade teacher, Tuloso-Midway Intermediate, Corpus Christi, Texas, and blogger at Teaching With a Cup of Tea

The Inspiration: “My inspiration was the need for more hands-on, collaborative work with my students,” Hiracheta says. “I start by introducing what we are going to look for, such as idioms, and hand out Post-its. Then, I explain what an idiom is and invite kids to keep their ears and eyes open for them as I do a read-aloud.” As they read passages from Wonder as a class, Hiracheta’s students jot down idioms (or the category of the day) on Post-its. Then, kids pair-share before going over each note as a group. Successful notes get posted on the chart, which can be added to all day.

Make Your Own: “Invite students to interact with the anchor chart to make it more meaningful and encourage them to take ownership,” Hiracheta suggests. “This is their chart. Making the chart interactive creates a learning community with respect for one another and everyone’s learning.” Hiracheta also loves the flexible format, which can be re-created to feature any book or category (think adjectives or cliffhangers).

Chart: Courtesy of Christina Hiracheta