In my last post, “Why I’m Happy to Post ‘Cheat Sheets’ on my Classroom Walls,” I discussed why and how I use anchor charts, vocabulary word walls, and a permanently posted timeline.
Thanks to Hillary King, from Magnolia Public Schools, for the recent email asking for more specifics about how I use anchor charts in my room:
“Specifically, I am curious as to how you A) discuss and share them with kids (rather than just putting them up) and B) your process in using them as annotation tools.”
As an Instructional Tool for Teachers
In the same way that we can’t teach grammar by simply mentioning it, Hilary is spot on with anchor charts: we’ve got to do more than simply put them up on the wall.
In my room, I start a new anchor chart with each new unit. The anchor chart is blank except for the unit’s driving question. In my history class, this is the end-of-unit essay question. Students know this inquiry from Day One.
As the unit progresses and new academic vocabulary words are introduced, I add them to the anchor chart, grouping them by category. Students record vocabulary in their notes; however, the chart becomes our shared visual space.
Throughout the unit—when my students are doing quick writes, pop-up debates, recall practices, or Big Picture History Quizzes—I point to the vocabulary words to cue their memories and encourage them to use the language of our content.
I keep the current anchor chart hanging from my podium. This way I can easily add new terms or point directly to something when I’m digging in to guided instruction.
This type of instructional tool works hand-in-hand with Fisher & Frey’s notion of Question, Prompt, and Cue. Anchor charts make “students feel supported and teachers feel rewarded.”
At the end of the unit, the chart goes up on the wall. I reference the charts throughout the rest of the year: “Remember the ‘push/pull factors’ of immigration during the Industrial Era? <point to the Unit #1 anchor chart> How might they impact the surge of xenophobia during the 1920s? <point to the Unit #3 anchor chart>”
As an Annotation Tool for Students
Students annotate the photo in what we call a “Brain Dump.” The commit to ten minutes of pencil to paper, writing everything they know about the unit.
They stretch the vocab terms by embellishing details, connecting facts, and showing causation. They create questions, express the main ideas, and rephrase key ideas in their own words.
Sometimes these ten minutes are painfully dry, but students push through knowing that neuroplasticity practice helps their brains grow and retain content longer.
On occasion, we “play musical chairs.” Students move around, sit in another seat, and add to that student’s Brain Dump. I ask them to “fill in” what their classmate might be missing, correct misinformation, or provide examples. If they find themselves in front of a “really good” Brain Dump where there’s not much info to add, students draw a visual to support their classmate’s thinking. This isn’t an assignment that my students turn in for a grade, so I don’t feel bad when I can’t read these crazy Brain Dumps are filled with annotations in five different handwritings.
Recalling content is the objective.
What visuals do you use to “Question, Prompt, and Cue” your students? What do you do at the end of the unit to practice recall? How do your students collaborate to review your content?
But wait–there’s more!
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