Anchor Charts: A Visual Learning Tool for the Classroom

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 -- Madison Michell

For educators, introducing a new topic is often the hardest part of any lesson. You kindle the flame and hope that it will catch fire, doing your best to capture and maintain students’ attention so that they’re ready to practice and then perfect their new skills. Creating a chart or graphic organizer with your students can help ground that learning from the beginning. In the classroom, these oversized visuals are referred to as anchor charts, and whether teacher drawn or class created, they provide a meaningful student guide to help clarify and trigger reminders throughout the learning process. Find out how you can make anchor charts work in your classroom by avoiding these four pitfalls.

1. Don’t decorate your classroom walls all at once

Many teachers are guilty of kicking off new units or semesters with completely decorated bulletin boards and classroom centers. While this can create quite the sense of awe when your students walk in, it doesn’t help learners absorb the new content. Instead, start out by keeping it simple. Set the backdrop for the learning that will follow in the weeks and months ahead with basic visuals, and then add each anchor chart (or other posters, word lists, etc.) strategically, as you introduce the corresponding concept or principle. Until you teach students how to interact with visuals and understand why your latest creation is important to them, much of your hard work may be overlooked.

2. Don’t stress over the prep

If you’re naturally gifted at sketching characters that will make your class smile, great! For those of you not so comfortable with a marker in your hand, there are plenty of other ways to prepare powerful anchor charts. Get your students involved, and encourage them to add their own creative flair. Try having them sketch on sticky notes, and then add their pieces to appropriate areas of your visual. This approach works well for sorting words and pictures to explain vocabulary or grammar terms and also for drawing examples to further understanding of a given concept in science or social studies.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Does the teacher down the hall have a clever idea for teaching compound words that you want to steal? In education, borrowing ideas from your colleagues is always encouraged. Rather than spinning your wheels coming up with something new and original, emulate a concept from another teacher in your school or download printable anchor chart components easily found on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers. If you’re interested in finding resources for pre-K through 6th grade reading, start with these four free anchor charts from Edmentum’s online literacy programs, Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress.

4. Don’t toss out your hard work

Educators don’t just teach “reduce, reuse, recycle”—they live it each and every day when it comes to classroom resources. Make sure that you’re doing just that with your anchor charts as well. If you have the space, hangers and binder rings can help create clever solutions to store and organize oversized charts in a classroom closet until next year. If you’re short on storage options, try taking pictures of finished charts and add them to an “anchor chart” binder that students can grab and refer back to as they need help.

Edmentum’s solutions for early literacy offer a variety of great printable visual resources. Explore Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress to learn more about how these online programs support engaging, individualized learning! You can also check out a few of our favorite anchor charts and get even more ideas for your upcoming lessons by following our Anchor Charts Pinterest board.