One of the first things I notice when I walk into a classroom is a teacher’s use of wall space. Having always taught multiple grade levels – in some of the smallest classrooms on campus-in one school year, I had to learn how to maximize the little wall space I had available. I learned a few weeks into my first year teaching that as glossy and sleek as the content-area and motivational posters (think that ubiquitous “Hang in There” kitten) I purchased for my classroom were, or how well-decorated my classroom was the week before school was even back in session, very little of what was on my walls was actually useful for my students in reinforcing the concepts, skills, and academic vocabulary I was working so hard to teach them. Sadly, it took a few more years for me to discover the magic of anchor charts.
What I’ve learned over a decade in this profession is that when used correctly, anchor charts are one of the most effective, engaging, and student-friendly ways to support instruction by reinforcing key concepts, skills, and vocabulary. One good anchor chart can not only replace an entire word wall, it can make the connections between concepts and terms visibly come to life for students. A great anchor chart can truly be like having another teacher in the classroom. Students can review the steps of a skill, strategy, or process during guided or independent practice using cues from an anchor chart (Harmon & Marzano, 2015).
So what exactly is an anchor chart and what constitutes a quality one? If an anchor is “a source of stability and security, used to hold something in place”, then an anchor chart is a sort of classroom artifact or record that provides a visual reference or cues to support students as they progress in their learning throughout the course of a unit or topic (Seger, 2009). Simply stated, anchor charts make the teacher’s instruction “clearly visible to students” (Newman, 2010). They are visual reminders current learning for all students and are indispensable for English Language Learners who benefit immensely from visual cues for academic concepts and vocabulary.
The following are some helpful tips for creating and maximizing the quality and effectiveness of your anchor charts. A quality anchor chart is:
- Relevant-Include only the most relevant/key information to keep from confusing students.
- Clear-Make the chart as clear, neat, and organized as possible.
- Focused-Stick to one focus per chart to avoid overwhelming students.
- Evolving-Allow the chart to evolve throughout the course of a unit by adding information learned as the unit progresses.
- Integral/Useful-Refer to the anchor chart frequently to model its use for students.
- Prominent-Display the chart where in a prominent place in the classroom where all students can see it.
- Current-Keep on display only charts that deal with what is currently being learned in order to eliminate clutter.
- Vibrant-Make the anchor chart colorful and easily visible using dark colors.
Author: Esmeralda Alday, Bilingual/ESL Specialist, Region 13 ESC.
Newman, L. (2010, October). Anchor Charts: Making Thinking Visible. Retrieved from Expeditionary Learning: https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/anchor_charts.pdf
Seger, W. (2009). Anchor Charts: The Environment as the Third Teacher. Retrieved from Cornerstone Literacy: http://www.palmbeachschools.org/ec/ElementaryCurriculum/documents/Reading_Elementary_AnchorCharts_Sept42009.doc
Harmon, K., Marzano, R.J., (2015). Practicing skills, strategies, & processes: Classroom techniques to help students develop proficiency. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.