When I first started practicing with the reader’s workshop model in my classroom, I didn’t know what an anchor chart was.
The posters in my room were :
- a large landscape of an unnamed beach in Thailand
- a series on how to cite sources using proper MLA formatting
- a poster of Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom
- an old advertisement for A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- a world map
Okay, as an overseas teacher, it’s understandable that I didn’t pack up posters that were on my walls when I taught public school, and bring them with me to Jordan. (In the weeks before I packed up and moved out of my old classroom, I gave many of those beloved posters away to students – and anyway, they weren’t anchor charts.) But I was starting my third year in this same classroom, and I should have had at least a plan to have something better than other teachers’ cast-offs on my walls.
I won’t beat myself up though; teaching is a process, and I’m still learning how to do it. Once I stop learning about teaching and learning, I might as well be done. Because I’ll never be “there.”
But I digress.
I did in fact learn about anchor charts this fall, and was immediately skeptical.
I didn’t understand how I could take an elementary idea and transfer it to high school. I know, I know, I’ve used that excuse for different initiatives my whole career. Haven’t we all? We see an example of student work that comes from a level that we don’t teach, and we immediately dismiss it and find excuses for why it won’t work instead of figuring out how and why it should work. I tell my students Don’t tell me what you can’t do, tell me what you can do all the time – perhaps it’s time to heed my own advice.
I really didn’t see how I could make an anchor chart with one class and make it meaningful for all of the students who are in my room throughout the day. There just aren’t enough walls.
But then I started thinking about how all of my classes, regardless of the grade level, have made some commitments. And I made my first anchor chart, pictured below:
- Read at least two hours per week.
- Read to understand.
- Choose a book you want to read.
- Have a “books I want to read next” list.
- Drop books you don’t like.
- Save books for later.
This one is right by my classroom library, and I point to it all the time – I tend to go to the third and fifth bullet point the most – sometimes students forget that if they don’t want to read a book, they don’t have to. That they really should have some excitement about the book they are reading, and it’s okay to drop a book when it feels like a chore instead of pleasure.
The chart itself is far from a work of art, but it is a useful reminder of what we are all doing in a reader’s workshop classroom.
Since that first, not-so-pretty anchor chart, I’ve added a few more:
None of them are masterpieces, but they serve a purpose. All of my students, regardless of grade level, can use them.
Some of them were made by students, some were written in my own hand based on class discussions.
The one on the top right was inspired by a chapter in Penny Kittle’s Book Love, and is a list of ideas about what makes a book difficult, generated by multiple students in multiple classes. I just snapped photos with my phone of the brainstormed ideas that were on the whiteboard, and then referred to the photos when I made the list on the poster paper, which we refer to now when we are goal-setting and reflecting.
The latest addition to the classroom wall was inspired by this article by Kelly B. Cartwright that I found on edutopia.com:
My posters don’t look like the artistically designed anchor charts in the elementary classrooms side of our school. They don’t have pictures and graphics, and I don’t expect that anyone will reproduce them for use in their own classrooms, but that’s not the point.
These posters are useful and helpful to students.
So now I’m on board with the idea of anchor charts, and that sometimes those elementary ideas will work for my students, too.
Follow Julie on Twitter: @SwinehartJulie