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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  1. I have already taken your advice and designated an area that will fit three anchor charts. I considered using hangers and a coat rack to store the old charts, but I'm not sure if I have the space. I love your idea of photographing the charts and using them in a PowePoint presentation. Thanks for all your great ideas and freebies.

  2. McKinney, Texas, 3rd grade... Thank you for some ideas, you are so correct that anchor charts give ownership to the class, and they do use them.

  3. Thank you for explaining the whole Anchor Chart idea. I hadn't heard this research, but I'd seen all these charts on Pinterest and blogs and didn't get the connection until now. I'm excited to try them out this year, especially since I've noticed what you had...that all my great "resources" on posters weren't being used all that much. This makes perfect sense. If the kids are involved in the creation, then it's much more meaningful and useful for them. Thanks so much!! {I realize most of my verbs are all jacked up in this comment. Please excuse as I haven't had my coffee yet!}

  4. I completely agree with you about kids not utilizing the premade displays--they aren't authentic and quite frankly, we never really taught the kids how to use them. I do see a HUGE difference in the anchor charts that we make as a class--the kids do get up and use them as references.

    Another idea you can try is to print out copies of the charts and make table tents out of them. I do the same chart on each side that way both sides of the table can view the same chart. I use this a lot when we're editing and revising our writing, especially if I want them to focus on something specific like changing basic sentences to compound sentences. Just a thought :o)

    1. I like your idea of creating table tents for groups of a specific objective thevstudents are learning

    2. I love this idea!!! :)

  5. I don't have any pre made charts in my room either. Often time I get comments at the beginning of they year on how bare my room is. I prefer to make them with the kiddos too. IF not then you're right it simply becomes decorations.

  6. I agree with you Jodi that store bought anchor charts just become the decorations of our classrooms. I always create charts with my students, but never thought of teaching writing process with that.It totally makes sense!

  7. Very interested in viewing what you came up with. I am having a tough time previewing your stuff.

  8. Yes! I have an entire back wall that is ready for my anchor charts. To start the year, I put my procedures to add a little color!

  9. I don't usually respond to these ideas, but I had to let you know this is the BEST idea for charts I have ever seen during 23 years of teaching. I have been using the charts but was always embarrased with how it looked when completed quickly. Keeping a photo record and putting them in the students binders is wonderful. Thanks so much. S. Lynn

  10. What great ideas! I teach middle school humanities in a small Christian school, and I follow your blog because organization is just below math on my list of talents! I am going to share this post with the lower-el teachers in my school as well. Thank you!

  11. I love the idea of publishing charts and having your students help you edit and possibly even revise. What a terrific way to teach the process. I work with a very clever teacher who takes pictures of her charts, copies them and has students put them in their reading and writing notebooks so they have easy access to the anchor charts.

  12. You have completely expressed my love /hate relationshipwith anchor charts. Whe I taught 3rd grade the kids wold take notes as we created a chart for Language arts and Math...they had a journal for each and we left the first several pages blank for a table of contents (we'd highlight the top of those pages, so we knew what they were) If we were learning about nouns, in the table of contents we'd write 1...Nouns. Then on page 1 they'd put their notes. After the anchor chartwas taken down, they had their notes for review! Even with a partner they could quickly go through their table of contents and explain each concept, looking up those they needed. Also during center time, they could look up things like "pronouns" for example...I haven't tried it with my second graders..but I'm tempted because it worked so well.....

  13. You are so creative. I wish I could borrow you for a week in my classroom.

  14. I love your idea of teaching the writing process along with the creation of anchor charts. It just makes sense and connects things for kids in a real way. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  15. Thank you for this wonderful post! You have summed up a lot of the questions and concerns I've had lately with the use of anchor charts as opposed to pre-made info that we all have/buy. I love love love the way you use them as a tool to teach publishing. That is such a great, yet obvious idea that I hadn't even considered! Thanks, as usual for all of your wonderful ideas and freebies! :)

  16. This year I will be doing Anchor Charts instead of purchased "decorations." I love your idea about creating a Published copy of the anchor chart- that was one of my main hang-ups with posting anchor charts in my room (because I want everything to look a certain way on my walls-and I don't want to put up a chart with bad handwriting or errors!). Thank you for sharing all of your ideas- I will definitely be trying them out! And thanks for sharing this freebie! :)

    :) Ashley
    The Real Teachr: Tips, Tricks, Freebies and Everyday Ideas for Real Teachers

  17. I just did the same thing about 2 hours ago... purged almost all store bought products. I feel free in a really wierd way... I did feel terrible throwing them away but it was time. I did send the punctuation pencils to the recycling bin as well...Thanks for your wonderful posts. It is nice to know that there are more people as OCD as I am!!!! Enjoy!

  18. Although this is great, could you have avoided filling up the landfills by recycling these either in an actual recycling bin or you could have sold them or even given them to your fellow colleague(S). I am disappointed to see all of this get thrown out and endlessly added to our landfills

  19. I agree with you, Rebecca. I usually leave anything that I want to get rid of in the teachers room for anybody to take. There are new teachers that could use them.

  20. Hey, I saw this idea on Pinterest. You could put your photos of anchor charts in clear sheet protectors and arrange them using a paper towel holder as shown here:

  21. A quick question - have you had a year where you teach several groups, such as a 4th/5th grade level where you teach math to 3 different groups of kids? What do you do about creating the same anchor chart 3 times? I love the idea of the kids working together to create it so using the same chart with different groups dosen't "feel" right. Any ideas?

  22. I keep a binder with a photo of each anchor chart I make, along with printed pictures of ones I find online that I want to use!
    I only teach reading, so my anchor charts photos are then organized by skill/topic. :)

  23. In our school we use sticky notes of all sizes (but especially the 5x7 ones) to write out important parts of our anchor charts ahead of time. When we make the chart with the class, we write parts in front of them and add the sticky notes for others. It saves us from having to waste time writing everything in front of the class. Plus you can move them around, add, and delete, without having to redo the chart. I even use sticky notes from old charts for new charts in different units of study. This all came about under the guidance of staff developers from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Two of their staff developers have a book on charts coming out in September and a blog called Chart Chums. Check it out!

  24. What a fabulous idea about calling your charts "rough drafts" and using that as a teaching tool as well as the chart itself! I've struggled, too, with the same issues--I'm creative, but not artsy as well. Thanks for giving me this great option!


  25. As a first year teacher, I am LOVING all of your flash freebies! Thank you so much for sharing all of your organizational methods :-). Do you mind sharing where you purchased the frames in this item? Or, if you made them, would you be willing to offer them in your store? Thanks!

    1. Just realized I should clarify - I mean the pointed frames, like the one around "Blackline design anchor charts in the classroom" - not the ones with the patterns inside. =)

  26. Great ideas! I am also trying to use only handmade charts this year. I love the "rough draft" idea. I know that will help me feel more comfortable displaying the charts.

  27. As an older teacher, I'm totally refreshed by your ideas and have begun to make some changes. Thank you for sharing your creativity.

  28. Great ideas. I am a firm believer in teacher/student made anchor charts. These get used much more than the pre-made ones. Adding anchor charts as the students learn the content makes them meaningful for them. It breaks my heart when I walk into a classroom before school starts and every wall is covered with store bought posters. Those posters are just decorations and will never be used. Thanks for sharing these ideas.


  29. Hi! I just wanted to let you know that this is probably my absolute FAVORITE blog to read! I look forward to your posts and find myself going back to read your older posts.

    Awesome, awesome, awesome job!

    Mommy, Teacher, & So Much More

  30. I'm curious, has anyone ever tried creating anchor charts on their Smart board? You could type or write and add actual clip art(instead of printing, cutting, and glueing it), and then display it on the board when you want it and print it for all the reasons people have mentioned. You could even print an 11x17 copy, which is the size many of my "final draft" charts end up, anyway. I love that size because they can be mounted & framed with two pieces of horizontal construction paper! I share a classroom and we have limited useable wall space, so I struggle each year with knowing how to display more than a handful of charts...

    1. I love that idea - and it fixes my problem of having multiple groups. Instead of having to make 3 anchor charts for my 3 classes, I can create on the smartboard. You can even take a screenshot of the finished projects and save for later or post on class website for kids to use in the future when needed.

  31. "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."

    What a totally fabulous idea - that way, if you need one later, you still have it! And not just in a binder, but ready for the entire class to see again. Thanks so much!

    I like it so much that I am linking to this post today on my blog: :)


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