Anchor charts…form vs function

Anybody who has taught for any length of time knows that anchor charts can be on unbelievable resource for the classroom teacher and for the students.

Anybody who has been on Pinterest knows that you can find an anchor chart for just about anything! Many of them are adorably decorated and make us all wish we were that creative.
I can’t help but wonder, however, if people are forgetting the intent of the anchor chart.  As much as we want our classrooms to be beautiful inviting places, anchor charts are meant to be used with and for students, not for decoration.
Don’t get me wrong… The charts do need to be legible and accessible.  I thought I would share my technique for keeping the students involved but still making a product that is worth hanging up and referring to later.
Here is an example full of a chart that I worked on with my class last week. We are kicking off our poetry unit and I wanted to get a feeling for what they already knew.  They had some good understanding, but it really was only a few students who were participating in the discussion. I jotted down their ideas knowing that it was not the final version of the chart we would have hanging in our room.

After I had written down their ideas and added some extra details based on the discussion (note the little lines “webbing” off the main ideas), I asked the students to look at the list and make some decisions about which items might work well together on our final chart.  I told him when I finished the final chart, I would like similar information together. They worked with me to color code the chart the way they felt it should be organized. This opened the lesson open up to all students, even if they did not have anything to contribute to the initial discussion.
After we finished talking about the chart, I took down our rough copy and that night I made a final copy that we could refer to.

I try to do this as often as I can, because I want the information on the charts to really belong to my students, even if I do end up editing it or reorganizing it. Sometimes I worry that we see so many great ideas out there that we presented to our class and forget that the reason we are making these great charts is to deepen their understanding, and to give them something to refer to.  
Hanging next to this anchor chart on our poetry wall will be a new chart that we build together that will talk about the elements of poetry that we build together as we work through our unit. Just thought I would give us all a little something to think about as we check out Pinterest next time! Trust me… I am as guilty as the next person for looking at cute anchor charts and thinking that I need to use them in my own class.  I can certainly use all those great charts as inspiration, but I need to remember that it should be my students running the show, not a pin from another class!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Meg

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