Anchor charts have many benefits for learners of all ages. When you co-create anchor charts in your minilessons, they can help students remember essential classroom procedures and routines, serve as a visual to help make sense of complex thinking, and students can use them as a reference tool during independent learning. In addition, anchor charts can benefit students and teachers when they are created effectively.
Effective anchor charts have three characteristics; they are co-constructed, simple, and useful.
Characteristic 1: Anchor Charts are Co-constructed.
The process of creating an anchor chart can impact student learning. Gone are the days when the teacher spends time prepping the chart with prefilled answers or general information, laminating it, and hanging it on the wall in hope that students will refer to it. Instead, teachers co-construct the anchor charts with students. The teacher gathers students on the carpet as a community of learners to discuss and record their noticings on the chart in real time. Co-construction emphasizes collaboration between teachers and their students and helps students develop a sense of power over their learning. After co-constructing the anchor chart, students will walk away knowing they can independently complete the types of complex thinking required.
Characteristic 2: Anchor Charts are Simple, Clear, and Organized.
Keep anchor charts simple, clear, and organized. One way to do this is to capture student thinking in a few words or short phrases. Use and record clear, concise language on the chart. Too much text will visually clutter the chart and make searching for information more difficult for the learner when they use it as a reference tool. Write in dark colors that are easy to see and large enough for the student to view from a distance. While creative fonts may be a way to express your sense of style, save that for materials adults will read, such as flyers, newsletters, and teacher websites. Use an easy-to-read font and neat, standard letters when writing on anchor charts. The goal is for the chart to serve as a practical learning tool during independent learning, so you want to ensure all students can access the anchor chart.
You may find that to make your anchor chart clear, you need to organize your chart into sections by using a two-column chart, four squares, or a grid. You may also find that you can use color effectively using various colored markers, highlighter tape, or colored sticky notes. You may write or highlight an important academic word you want students to notice, or you may help students categorize their thinking by using different colors in each section of your chart. Be thoughtful in your color selection so students are supported by colors and not distracted by their overuse.
Characteristic 3: Anchor Charts are Useful Learning Tools.
The anchor charts you co-construct with your students serve as a useful learning tool in the classroom. “The charts display the thinking that students are doing so that they can refer to them and build on their learning” (Fountas & Pinnell p. 62, 2022). After the lesson, the charts serve as a reference tool as students apply the principle independently in their reading and writing. To maximize the usefulness of the anchor chart, display it in your room by hanging it on your wall, on the edge of your whiteboard, on doors or cabinets, or anywhere students can quickly locate the chart. Anchor charts support your students in their independent application of their learning.
When teachers incorporate the three characteristics of effective anchor charts, students will develop a strong sense of ownership in their learning and use the charts as learning tools. No matter what grade you teach, anchor charts are created with students, for students.
Fountas, I. C. & Pinnell, G. S. (2022). Leading for literacy: What every school leader needs to know. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.