5 Rules for Creating Anchor Charts That Make a Difference

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
Back in the day…I would fill my classroom walls before the students even arrived with beautiful purchased charts for colors, months, numbers, character traits, reading strategies and marvel at the “pretty.”  Then the students and parents arrive to see all the “pretty” I had created.  But, “pretty is as pretty does,” right?  These charts just looked pretty.

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.Fast forward 25 years of teaching, one master’s in Early Childhood Education and one Reading Specialist Certificate…and I no longer purchase ANYTHING for display on my walls.  As a matter of fact, the walls are pretty bare when the students and parents first see it.

Student Created Anchor Charts

Now, the students help create what goes on the walls…and they are invested in the chart from the beginning.  I don’t have to “tell” students how to spell the color words, we practice using the charts we create or a simple pointing reminder lets the child create independence in writing.

Do I interactively write everything?  NO…that would just take too long.

Do I create everything from scratch?  NO…that would take too long.

Do I need to be prepared to make a good anchor chart?  YES, that’s the key.

1. Teach Expectations.

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
We use anchor charts to create the classroom expectations.  Some of the charts are on the picture. Our class rules, our listening rules, and our Reader's Workshop expectations are just a few anchor we create as a classroom community. Sometimes the writing is modeled. The posted to the left were done with kindergarten students the first few days of school, so the teacher modeled it. Students help to interactively write, match pictures to text, and discuss what is expected. Posting rules before they even arrive, won't make them own the rules. Letting them "create" the rules (even if you steer the conversation the way you need to go) and they will own it. Always refer to the anchor chart when revisiting the expectations. 

2. Make it useful.

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
As a kindergarten teacher, my students always made their color, number, and shape charts.  We did color posters the first 4 days of school. Students would interactively write 3 color words a day on white 12 x 18 construction paper, then sort the pictures for those colors.  To involve oral language, my students needed to create a complete sentence, “I found a green turtle.” Shape posters were Week 2. They will need these posters all year. These could be the most important anchor charts on the wall. I like to use old ladies magazines.  I mean, OLD ladies magazines…like Good Housekeeping© or Ladies Home Journal©.  I spend all summer in front of the television tearing out pictures from old magazines the ladies in my church collect for me.  I look for pictures that are big and are clear pictures for classroom use.  I collect pictures for colors, numbers, shapes, science concepts like solid, liquid, and gas, history concepts like the president or then and now pictures. We sort pictures, interactively write the words, and glue.

3. Repurpose Worksheets

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
In addition to the basic anchor charts, I used standard worksheets to create my own anchor charts.  To create a sequencing chart, use a worksheet, enlarge the pictures, during a whole group lesson, make a chart. We also used character worksheets to determine who was in the story and who was not.  The concept of characters was not only common, it was understood. Setting posters can be made the same way.  It's also fun to print copies of book covers and create a Fiction/Non-Fiction chart. Don't just give them a worksheet, but also...don't throw them away! Rethink their purpose.

4. Make them use them.

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
If you want them to use them, you have to (1) teach them to use them and (2) require them to use them. Anchor charts need to help your class work independently.  Placing a value on anchor charts makes all the difference.  Having a center activity based on using an anchor chart is a great way to involve an anchor chart in a meaningful, directed activity.   One week make the anchor chart for position words (like the below poster), the next week students must recreate these charts in the math or science center.  Same with reusing materials or things plants need in the picture above. After creating the Living Things poster in class, they were given a 4-page book and asked to make a page for each need. Good anchor charts add value to your room!

5. Make charts personal.

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
Sometimes, anchor charts are personal for your classroom and that specific year. Anchor Charts can also be made quickly for your classroom purposes only.  A moment exists in your classroom that needs to be addressed.  My owl and house anchor charts were made quickly out of a need that arose during a discussion in our class. My classroom was decorated with owls (surprise) and the students wanted to write about owls.  We discussed the difference between ow and ou using two words they would use often.  A separate ow/ou chart was made during small group reading instruction when it was needed for a book.

What Do You Need?

Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.
It is important to make anchor chart so that everyone can see it and use it. Make sure you use paper clear of distractions. I love the Post-it charts, but they can get expensive. I used to snag bulletin board paper and cut it down to the size I needed. I like using bullet-tip markers like Crayola with younger students. Many times a chisel-tip can mess them up with thin and thick edges. I always have a ruler or yardstick handy. I don't draw a distinct line on the paper, but a faint line for guidance. Finally, have pictures ready for the poster, if you want to use them. They can be full-colored or student-colored.  

Anchor charts are not only important, they are crucial to your classroom.

Tell me what anchor charts you use in your room.




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Anchor Charts are the most essential part of your classroom, but if you are using pre-made, store-bought anchor charts you are missing a golden learning opportunity. Here are 5 rules for meaningful anchor charts.

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