How can we “hold thinking” – making it both permanent and visible? When planning, I need to think through not only what I want kids to know, do, and understand, but also how both of us will know what they know.
~ Debbie Miller in Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades (2nd ed)
How often do you use anchor charts? I am a big fan and use them across the content areas as well as reading and writing workshops. Anchor charts are instructional tools to “anchor” the learning. They build a culture of literacy in the classroom as teachers and students work together to make thinking visible by recording content, strategies, processes, and guidelines during minilessons and/or discussions that occur in whole and small groups. Posting anchor charts makes the community’s thinking visible and permanent, making that thinking accessible to students to remind them of what they have discovered and to enable them to accommodate new knowledge with prior knowledge. Students refer to anchor charts when they work independently and during new minilesson experiences that extend a concept or skill use. They are tools to help students respond to questions about their reading, to expand ideas, to compose a piece of writing, or contribute to discussions and problem-solving activities in class.
I encourage students to contribute to the anchor chart, often placing their initials next to an idea they have contributed. Chris Tovani in What Do They Really Know? (2011) states that she records student thinking so that “…others in the class can see that they’re not the only ones who wonder what’s going on.” Tovani not only records the thinking but also the name of the student responsible for the thinking. She dates and saves anchor charts to serve as tangible artifacts of learning in the classroom. Using anchor charts as visible representations of students’ thinking, helps not only those students who are contributing to the chart but all students in the class, since all students see and can use the information the chart elicits. When we ask students to share what they already know and are able to do in a unit of study, we allow them to reflect on their prior knowledge.
The anchor chart is placed in a convenient student-friendly location such as the bulletin board in the reading center. The most current anchor chart is left on the chart stand in the area where we gather for instruction. Key anchor charts that are used all year can cover cabinet, closet doors, and window shades or hang on a clothesline. Anchor charts are academic support, especially for the visual learner. Some anchor charts may only be displayed during the current unit of study. Post only those charts hat reflect current learning and avoid distracting clutter.