Anchor Chart Tips & Tricks

It's no secret that I have a “thing” for anchor charts.  My readers know it, my students know it, my colleagues know it, my husband knows it… I can't help it–they have changed my classroom!  They have made my walls interactive instead of stagnant.  I just LOVE anchor charts.

I remember seeing anchor charts begin to pop up on Pinterest and looking at mine in shame.  There was no color.  Most of them had ended up in the trash from year to year.  To be quite honest, we made them and then rarely referenced them again.  I decided I needed to do an overhaul, and I learned a lot about anchor charts this year.  Are you ready to take the anchor chart plunge?

1) Scour Pinterest for Ideas:  Nobody says that all of your anchor charts have to be your 100% original creation, and there are a TON of anchor charts out there already, and more are added every day as teachers create them for their classrooms.  When I'm getting ready to create an anchor chart with my class, I look at all the different anchor charts that are already out there.  Most of the time, I don't find one that is exactly what I need, but I can look at others and make sure I don't forget anything.  I have two collaborative Pinterest boards dedicated to anchor charts (one for primary and one for upper elementary), and some of the pins that get pinned to those boards are absolutely phenomenal!  If you're not already following them, I highly recommend it.  No paid products, just awesome anchor charts.

2) Create them WITH your class:  Remember in tip number one how I said I don't usually find one that's perfect for my class?  That's because, as we all know, all classes are different.  If I create anchor charts at home and bring them in to class, it is no different than using a pre-fabricated bulletin board from the teacher supply store (don't get me wrong, they are awesome), so I always create them with my class.  However, anchor charts are meant to be an anchor for the specific learning that is happening in YOUR classroom every day…they are meant to cement what you are teaching and be a continuing visual reference.  Undoubtedly, the kids add new ideas or bring up new questions that I didn't consider but that are relevant and authentic for them.  When your students watch you create it, help you create it, they have some serious ownership over it.  It has been proven time and time again that students just don't pay attention to bulletin boards that they have no ownership over.

*REMEMBER: The purpose of anchor charts is to anchor the learning happening in YOUR classroom.  A pre-made poster or anchor chart, while convenient and beautiful, probably won't serve quite the same purpose.

3) Plan Ahead: Just because I make the charts with my class certainly doesn't mean I don't have a plan of action before I start.  I ALWAYS do.  Sometimes, I even start with a shell of a chart.  In fact, I always plan out the general design (is it going to be a step by step process, a flow chart, a list, etc.) and make a list of everything I NEED to include on it.   That way when we get going on creating it, I don't forget anything.

4) They don't always look that pretty at first: I do my best to use a lot of different colors (that make sense within the context of the chart, of course) when I'm making them with my students, but I usually go through and add borders  or “fancy” the words in the title afterwards.  The kids actually look forward to coming in the next day and seeing what I did to pretty it up.

5) Invest in some Mr. Sketch Scent Markers:  I had a parent email me at Christmas-time and ask me where I got my “Mrs. M anchor chart markers” because her son had added them to his Santa list.  Be still my heart.  If my scented markers are going to make you pay attention to how to multiply decimals, awesome.  Just awesome.

6) Post-It Charts are your (expensive) friend: I use sticky note chart paper, which is a smidgen more expensive than regular charts.  I found an Office Depot brand that works just as well.  Why do I use these?  Because I hang my anchor charts in layers.  I share a room, so I don't have copious amounts of wall space, so sometimes I will have a “stack” of anchor charts hanging on the board 3 or 4 charts deep (I keep them up as long as they are still relevant).  When I need to use one or a student needs to reference it, they just flip it up and can see all of the content.

7) Get them into students' hands: I have really struggled with getting the anchor charts into students hands.  There are BRILLIANT ideas out there like an anchor chart binder (which I fully intend on doing this year) for student reference.  Sometimes, I have my students copy down anchor charts into their notebooks while they are in centers.  Occasionally, but not often, I have them copy them as we create them. I have even taken pictures and posted them on our classroom website.  Parents love when I post them on the website because they can see what their students are learning and can support them if they need extra help with homework.  However you do it, make sure the anchor charts are accessible and useful to students and not just fancy decorations.

8) Make students use them:  If a student asks me a question that they should know the answer to, or that is clearly stated on an anchor chart, I don't give them the answer.  Instead, I direct them to the appropriate anchor chart.  I direct students to different anchor charts we have made on a DAILY BASIS, and I never get an eye roll or a sigh.  Instead, they always say “oh yeah!”  Sooner or later, they really, truly start referencing the anchor charts when they have questions.

What are your tips and tricks for using and creating anchor charts?


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