Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Anchor Charts - Five Essential Features

Persistence pays off....eventually. This morning, I felt like a miner who had discovered a rich new vein! I've been looking for a clear description of what an anchor chart should be, to be most useful for student learning. That's really all that matters in any instructional strategy, right? I found the information below on a wikispace, and finally found the source through some backwards searches. I DO love technology. ;-)

Cornerstone Literacy is "a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that strives to improve literacy outcomes for students in elementary schools serving urban and high-poverty communities by dramatically increasing the number of highly effective teachers." Their website is amazing, packed with research, strategies, and frameworks for literacy and thinking skills. Be sure to go there and check out what they offer for FREE.

Cornerstone's information about Anchor Charts, written by Wendy Seger, is exactly what I've wanted to share with you:

1. 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 discrete skills that build capacity to meet the writing expectation. Those skills make up the topics of the lessons that are taught in the day-to-day work in the classroom. It is such discrete skills that are represented in an anchor chart. For example, the chart below supports the learner in one of the skills that would lead toward mastery of this standard.

2. The anchor chart is co-constructed with the students. The brain-based research of Marcia Tate and others 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. 

3. The anchor chart has an organized appearance. Clarity is paramount to understanding. If the students can’t read the chart or find the statement of explicit instruction, the anchor chart will be of no support to the students when they return to it as a scaffold.

4. The anchor chart matches the learners’ developmental level. 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 for whom the chart is created. Below are three anchor charts developed for the same lesson: introduction to the comprehension strategy of schema. The one on the left was designed for second graders, the one in the middle for fourth graders, and the one on the right for first graders. Notice the differences in language and complexity.

5. The anchor chart supports on-going learning. One of the most important considerations is whether or not the chart is relevant and used by the students. Charts should reflect recent lessons or concepts that need continued scaffolding. Teachers can support learning by placing an anchor chart in a classroom library where students can access the information later. 


I've put together a list of sites that you can visit to see a variety of beautiful examples of Anchor Charts for different grades and subjects:

A Literate Life at julieballew.com

Classroom Anchor Charts and Ideas

Fabulous Fourth Grade

Hall County Schools Literacy Site

Mrs. Meacham's Classroom Snapshots

Mrs. Zimmerman's Learning Conservatory

My Life as a Third Grade Teacher

Second Grade with Mrs. Wade

Teaching in High Heels

Working 4 the Classroom

To see photos of more great anchor charts, click over to my "learning twice: Teaching Resources" board on Pinterest!

So. Read about anchor charts. Look at exemplary anchor charts. Make anchor charts with your students. Use anchor charts for reflection, reteaching, review, and scaffolding. And let me know how anchor charts work for you and your kiddos!