Friday, August 3, 2012


Today’s Classroom 360 Post is more symbolic than aesthetic. 
{It's also another 360, Teacher Tip & Flash Freebie all in one.}
It’s not one of my snazzy new bulletin boards.
It’s not a Pinterest-worthy pic of a banner or clever craft.
Instead it is my trash.

Do you see that sad little pencil begging for freedom from his dumpster fate? Well, he’s kind of important because he and his friends were the last surviving “manufactured educational display” in my classroom and I recently bid them a sad farewell.
It was a bit bittersweet because they had been with me for so long....
too long...
like more than a decade.
I thought they were cute. I thought they were handy. I mean kids NEED to know about punctuation and editing marks, correct?

But do you know what? They in that decade+ I can’t recall ever, ever, ever seeing one of my friends (and I’ve taught Kindergarten, first, second and third grade in that time) look to these quirky little pencil friends for guidance. Instead, it was always the charts we had created together in class that were getting all the love.
Research says that kids need to “anchor their learning” by creating these charts, but I don’t always believe the latest “research.” In regards to this though I would say it is spot on. My friends are constantly looking to the visuals we have made together as a reference. They look up from where they are sitting. They get out of their seats to get closer looks. They ask about charts that have been retired when they need some info. Clearly these were effective.
The pretty charts, posters, diagrams, etc that I had spent a small fortune on over the years at the teacher stores...not so much.
And while I’ve slowly been phasing out all of those packaged resources over time, I made a very conscious decision this year to actually banish them from my classroom. 
Here are my own personal reasons:
  • As I mentioned the kids were NOT utilizing them. In fact, I don’t think they even noticed them much. They were just part of the classroom decor.

Here’s why I resisted making the change:

  • We made the charts so often that I was always at a loss for where to hang them.

  • It’s not possible to leave them all up all year so I was at a loss for what to do with that information that they would still need at a later date.

These were my solutions which may be helpful to others.

To solve the problem of not liking the “messy” factor...
  • I plan out the “bones” on my charts when I am writing my lesson plans. While the bulk of the content is generated by the students, the framework for the chart is mine. I find that having a plan is helpful.

  • If the chart is going onto the wall, I use the opportunity to model the steps of the writing process. I am always teaching my students that our published work needs to be our best quality and this is no different. If I make a chart with the students that I don’t feel is of “display quality,” I explain that it is a draft. We write the words “Rough Draft” onto the chart. I have them analyze it with me to discuss how it could imporve (more color, neater handwriting, more visuals, etc.), make note of their suggestions and then create a similar, but spiffier version after school. Prior to hanging it up, I put the two side by side and encourage student discussion about why the new chart is ready to be “published.” I have found that this has helped so much with teaching them about editing and the importance of putting forth your best work efforts. I always let a student take home the original...and often try to pick a student who will most benefit from it’s content.

  • I am NOT an artistic person. I am creative, but I am not artistic. They are clearly not one in the same. That’s where I cheat a bit. I may add in photographs or glue on clipart. I use fun fonts as a guide when printing my letters. I add borders using ribbon or tape. Or I’ve also been known to farm out the final copy to much more artistic colleagues.

To solve the problem of not knowing where to hang them...
  • I created designated spots for my charts this year. I’ve already blogged about that. You can read all about it here.

To solve the problem of being on chart-overload and not knowing what to do with the abundance of resources...
I actually have a few ideas.
I plan to take a picture of each and every chart. I am going to use those pictures in a few ways. 
#1 I’ll use a binder to create a “photo album” of our charts. My plan is to use tabbed sections for each subject.
#2 As we begin building up a collection, I may reduce them in size to fit several on a page and make a photocopy for each students’ notebook.
#3 I will build an ongoing Powerpoint presentation that the kids can access on the classroom computers and that I can use to project the charts onto the smartboard for future reference.
I have created a product that includes anchor chart planning sheet to use to help you get organized before creating charts with the class and a variety of binder covers in case you also want to make a collection of your charts for the students to access. This product was designed as part of my versatile, ink-saving Blackline Design Collection.  

{click here to access and print my Anchor Charts: Planning Sheets & Binder Covers Packet}

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For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide
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