Anchoring Our Learning

Hello Readers!  It's Carla from Comprehension Connection here with you today to share a little information on one of our favorite teaching tools, Anchor Charts.  Many of us use them, but it is important to know what our literacy leaders recommend as best practices with using them.
Anchor Charts have become a staple in many classrooms, and their use helps increase student engagement, provide visual cues/aids for instruction, serve as evidence of learning, and give students a frame for the learning during the lesson and after. 

The term anchor chart came about as these charts hold learning firmly in place. Just think about the purpose of an anchor for a moment. Without an anchor, boats move freely making it difficult to stay in one place. Like the anchor of a boat, anchor charts focus students on the important concepts of a lesson and keep it grounded. 

This post explains the importance of anchor charts in teaching. It includes the characteristics of great charts as well as chart ideas.

Not all anchor charts are equal though.  Sure it's convenient to make charts ahead of time, but according to Wendy Seger at Cornerstone Literacy, anchor charts need the following features to be the most effective for students.

First of all, the chart needs to focus on just one key point of a lesson.  If your objective is broad, narrow the focus of the anchor chart in order to provide a concrete model for your students.  If you have too many concepts on the chart, the student will lose focus. Break the objective down for your students to help them learn each subskill.  As skill knowledge builds, students will be equipped to fully meet the broader objective.

One goal with anchor charts is to increase student engagement and make learning come from the student.  When students generate the information for the chart, they have a vested interest in the content. The information is evidence of their learning, and by showcasing their thinking, we are reinforcing  that we value their thinking and their work. Plus, when they are displayed in the classroom, students can show them off to other school personnel, parent visitors, and their friends.

Let's face it.  We all love to have our work look polished and pretty. This may seem difficult to do when creating charts with students, but it is possible.  Teachers can certainly add borders and "pretty it up" before or after creating the chart with students.  The more important point with organizing the information though is for student learning.  By organizing the information, we are helping our students organize their thinking.  One very effective teaching strategy is Think Aloud, and when we create charts with our students, we can use this strategy AND help our students categorize the information more easily through the anchor chart.  

Just like we match our objectives to the needs of our students, our anchor charts need to fit the developmental stage of our readers too. When you think about skills such as main idea, it's important to keep the language at the level of the reader.  We should use their language to make the chart.  Using leading questions to guide the discussion will help elicit student responses you can record.  When there are misconceptions, we see it through the responses and can clarify errors. One added benefit to questioning is that it allows the kids to talk.  They are social little beings and enjoy giving their opinions for sure!

As students learn new skills, anchor charts from prior lessons can provide students with the background information and skills they need for the new content.  Many students need multiple exposures in order to master a skill. Having your anchor charts to refer to during remediation or for work stations can give students that extra reminder they may need in order to master the content.
As we know, anchor charts can be very, very helpful to students.  They can be made on chart paper or electronically, and with new applications being added all the time, students even have the ability to compose anchor charts with teammates in cooperative groups through programs like Popplet, the Notes App on the I-Pad, or for longer notes, students can use the Page App.  Anchor charts can also be photographed and kept in a photo gallery for times that students need the information, but it's hard to see or put away. For my groups, I enjoy using these printable charts for reference after we've made one as a class.

Here is my board for anchor charts on Pinterest.  I love that they stimulate discussion as the charts are made, but also provide cues for deeper thinking after. This board is always growing, so follow along if you love anchor charts too.

I don't know about you, but I am always on the look out for new and clever ways to present information to my students.  If you have favorite anchor charts you'd like to share, we'd love to see them.  Feel free to post them in your comments or share a pin address with us.
Have a great week, and until next time...happy reading!


  1. Love this, thank you! One of my goals for next year is to make more AND more effective anchor charts for my second grade students. Much appreciated! Kathy

    1. You are sure welcome, Kathy! I appreciate the feedback. I love using them both on chart paper and the Smartboard.

  2. Love this! So true that students need the charts to be from their own learning and knowledge for it to be real for them. I love the idea of taking pictures of the charts to use later. I just don't have space in my room for all of those wonderful anchor charts!

    Reading Toward the Stars

    1. I love making and displaying them on my Smartboard. It's a great way to frame the lesson.

  3. Great post Carla! I need to be better about making the charts with the students. There are so many pre-made "cute" ones out there and I have been using more of those… but, you are sooooo right- it is WAY more meaningful when it is created and organized by them.
    JD's Rockin' Readers

    1. I see no problem with putting the framework together ahead and guided kids to the big ideas. Who knows...they surprise us sometimes and give ideas that we never thought of too.