Starting my career out working for Los Angeles Unified School District, I was placed in a school that had predominantly English Language Learners. My particular third-grade class was almost entirely made up of ELLs, so in my first few years of teaching, I learned many different teaching strategies that helped me to support my ELLs.
To this day, my favorite strategy is the use of anchor charts. When I say anchor charts, I don’t mean creating charts for specific reading or math skills using ones I found off of Pinterest or somewhere else online. I mean designing an anchor chart from scratch that accomplishes two very important things: providing students with background knowledge and supporting language development. An anchor chart that provides you with these two things is not only beneficial to ELLs, but is crucial for supporting all learners.
Quality Anchor Chart Must-Haves
The first thing a quality anchor chart must have is a mix of graphics, vocabulary words, and descriptions. In order to provide students with a well-rounded view of the concept being taught through the chart, you need to include this mix, this variety, because using a combination of visuals and text will give students a deeper understanding of what’s being presented to them.
I like to include a main graphic that represents the overall concept, and then include other graphics along the way to help support new language or ideas. It’s as easy as printing off images from online that you think will reinforce or support a section of your chart.
I couple these with language-rich descriptions that present new, domain-specific vocabulary and student-friendly explanations of the concept I’m teaching.
The second must-have for a quality anchor chart is its ability to be an interactive learning tool. I personally never felt that a pre-made anchor chart that was just “presented” to students was particularly effective. Because I find it most effective to create anchor charts in front of students during my lesson, I like to incorporate opportunities for interaction. Here are a couple of ways I’ve done this:
- Stop and give students time to turn-and-talk between sections of your chart so they can digest the information you just covered before moving onto the next part.
- Pass out notecards with vocabulary words or synonyms of words you know you will be writing on your chart. When you get to that vocabulary word or synonym, the student with the notecard gets to come up and tape it to the chart.
Revisit the Chart
Last, a quality anchor chart should be able to be revisited several times throughout your unit of study. It should really be your “anchor.” As you move through your unit and build on the knowledge, you should constantly make connections to your anchor chart so that students are anchoring their new learning with their previous learning.
By revisiting your anchor chart throughout a unit, you’re constantly reinforcing your teaching and imprinting that learning on your students. With repeated exposure, you’re giving students the opportunity to form connections in long-term memory.
To Recap, A Quality Anchor Chart -
- has a mix of graphics/visuals, vocabulary words, and language-rich descriptions
- is something that provides students with opportunities to interact with their peers and with their own learning
- a tool to “anchor” learning, that is used throughout the whole unit of study
- pre-made and then “presented” as a completed chart
- focused on being “pretty” but rather full of valuable information
- only graphics or only text
- something you just find online and copy
Now that you have a good understanding of what makes up a quality anchor chart, you’re ready to make your own! Think of an upcoming unit of study. Is it a Benchmark Advance unit? A social studies or science unit? Where do you even start when designing an anchor chart from scratch?
Check out this bite-sized PD presentation that walks you through the step-by-step process for creating your chart. In just under an hour, you’ll have a chart prepped for whatever upcoming unit of study you’re planning for!
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