Actionable Anchor Charts

When you are setting up your classroom at the start of the year, it is tempting to fill those blank walls with posters that are fun, bright and/or motivational. For instance, there’s that one with the cat clinging to the edge of a precipice with the caption “Hang in there!”. Or, “Listen has the same letters as Silent”. And there are those bazillion “Keep Calm and…” posters.

These posters are fine. They communicate positivity and a certain whimsical nature.

But, there are more important messages you can post on your walls – messages support student learning. You can refer to these posters regularly, and often with simply a gesture.

For instance, in my Social Studies classroom, I am always harping on the students to support their ideas with evidence. So, I created anchor charts that do just that. Here’s some of the reminders I have posted right above my whiteboard:

  • I think _______ because _______
  • I agree with ______ because ________
  • That’s a good idea, but in my opinion ___________ because _________
  • My idea is related to ______’s idea. I think _____ because _________

During the first few weeks, when a student utters an unsupported statement, I stop them and point up to my poster. Then I encourage them to add a “because” to their idea and follow through with evidence. Later in the year, I don’t have to speak – I simply point to the poster.

Sometimes students don’t remember or even know what constitutes evidence. So, another poster I use lists examples of supporting evidence. The poster includes things like:

  • Quotes
  • Examples
  • Facts
  • Statistics

When a student presents an idea and has no idea how to support it, I can gesture towards that poster to spark some ideas.

To ensure classroom discussions are always polite, I have a chart that offers a variety of ways of indicating disagreement without being rude or demeaning:

  • “That’s a good idea. Another idea could be _________”
  • “I’m not sure I agree. Maybe __________”
  • “Has anyone thought about __________”
  • “Let’s look at it from this point of view _________”

Last year I even created a blank poster where I wrote down great transition words that students used or were featured in our readings. It was kind of a living poster that got bigger and more helpful all year long.

For me, the name of the game is usefulness. If a poster isn’t doing a job (other than just being punny!) then maybe it shouldn’t be up on my wall, or – at the very least – maybe it shouldn’t occupy prime real estate in my room.

What are your thoughts? What do you post up in your room? We would love to hear from you!

And BTW – here’s hoping your admin team doesn’t schedule too many meetings or “team-building” activities and you actually get enough time to work on your room!

Ed Ex!

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