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Anchor Charts: What Are They & How Can Teachers Use Them in the Classroom?

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Have you ever felt like your students’ attention (and maybe even your attention!) bounces all over the place during a lesson?

If so, anchor charts can be a good solution because they visually ‘anchor’ everyone’s attention in one place. 

Anchor charts are a useful teaching tool in classrooms across all grade levels. They can help assist with lesson plans, increase student engagement, and provide additional details on classroom procedures.

If you are a new teacher looking for ways to improve student learning or an experienced teacher wanting something new in your classroom, anchor charts are a great option. There are always opportunities for professional development and improvement in teaching

In this article, we’ll talk about what exactly an anchor chart is and ways you can use them to improve your classroom environment.

What is an anchor chart?

Anchor charts are a classroom development and learning tool that is visual in nature. They can be one chart that the whole class references or individual charts in students’ binders. You might find that they are a must-have in your classroom this school year!

These charts are incredibly flexible and easily manipulated to make learning more accessible to learners with certain challenges. Or they can cater to students with different learning styles. 

Anchor charts can also make learning more fun. These charts are interactive and more enjoyable to look at than a typed-out list. 

Classroom teachers can customize an anchor chart for a specific lesson plan and post it in a visible place in the classroom, like on a bulletin board or whiteboard. You want to place an anchor chart in a place that is easy for students to see and reference. 

Teachers across the world use and love anchor charts. It’s used in classrooms that teach a variety of subjects, including ELA (English Language Arts), social studies, math, science, and more. 

Check out these examples of anchor charts below!

How teachers can use anchor charts in the classroom

Anchor charts have tons of benefits and can be used in many different ways throughout the classroom.

There are plenty of printable templates that you can utilize or you can choose to build your own on a sheet of chart paper. You can be as creative as you want to be with anchor charts!

Here are some of our favorite uses and benefits for anchor charts within the classroom.

Hopefully, these examples will spark some ideas for how you can implement anchor charts in your classroom. But remember, these are just a few ideas. There is no limit to what you can use anchor charts for.

Support students during independent work

Many students struggle with independent work time or when they are working in small groups. The issue may be that they lack the necessary focus or they don’t have a concrete understanding of the lesson material. Anchor charts can be a great solution to both of these issues. 

Teachers often use anchor charts to convey an independent work directive. They guide students during independent work. For example, if you were using an anchor chart in an ELA class for an activity like close reading, anchor charts can remind your students of key reading strategies they can use when they get stuck.

You can also use them as a visual reminder when reading aloud or writing exercises, with informational text helping them on topics like phonics or basic grammar. This can help teachers save on answering simple questions as the information and its visual cues can quickly jog students' memories.

Anchor charts can also act as a frame of reference for a student for a particular lesson. The chart will visually show how students can complete the work on their own. In the long run, this grows their problem-solving skills.

Increase classroom management

Anchor charts can also be used to support classroom management efforts - especially in earlier grade levels. While this tactic may not work as well in a middle school classroom, it can be effective at an elementary school level or younger.

Because anchor charts are visual, they are great for early learners who haven’t yet mastered reading. They can provide reminders of rules and procedures before the teacher is able to simply write out a list of instructions. 

One great example is a chart that outlines the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” or the rules of active listening. 

When the chart is hung up in the classroom, students can reference it whenever they forget what to do. This can be a lifesaver for you so that you’re not answering the same question or repeating the same directions over and over. 

Overall, anchor charts are an effective classroom management strategy for younger grade levels.

Improve student engagement

Student engagement is an integral piece to consider when implementing any new teaching strategy. Ensuring your class is actively engaged with a lesson will help create a concrete understanding of the material.

Anchor charts can be used in an interactive way to increase student engagement. One idea on how to do this is to ask a question or provide a prompt, then instruct students to write their answers on a sticky note. This sticky note would then be placed on the anchor chart. 

Another example is providing an organizer worksheet where each student will fill in their own anchor chart with the new class material. You can have them do this throughout the lesson or at the end as a way to review or assess their understanding.  

When your students are actively engaging with the material during these activities, you can evaluate if they have a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

Gauge student understanding

One of your main goals as a teacher is to ensure that your students have a concrete understanding of the lesson at hand. Anchor charts can be an excellent way to help you gauge student understanding. 

Using an anchor chart as a reference point, you can ask thoughtful, relevant questions about the lesson. You may ask them to explain various parts of the chart or you can just use the chart to keep the group on task.

When asking these questions, students are given the opportunity to show their understanding and flex their problem-solving skills. Hopefully, it will also show you areas in which your students are lacking understanding or need to improve their skills.

Use them as reference materials

Another way to use anchor charts as a classroom tool is to create reference materials that you can post around the classroom. If your students are struggling to understand a particular concept, create an easy cheat sheet for them to reference when necessary.

In math class, this might mean certain formulas or procedures. In English class, it could be new vocabulary. Or in art class, an anchor chart of how colors mix together to make new colors could be hung up. 

This is a great strategy if you have students that are struggling to remember a certain formula or grasp certain concepts. Sometimes seeing concepts can make them easier to understand and remember. 

Allowing your students to use anchor charts as reference materials can also help improve their reading comprehension with the extra practice they get when reading the chart.

Teach mini-lessons

Teachers can also use anchor charts to teach mini-lessons. Because you can create them in a way that makes the information easily digestible, you can spend a bit of time on an individual concept without using the entire class period.

This can be a great way to review prior learning or introduce a new concept slowly. You can build a little bit on their understanding each day instead of unloading a bunch of information all at once. This is especially useful with complex concepts. 

Additionally, you can post daily questions to help improve individual skills without spending valuable class time on the full lesson. This can also be a great warm-up activity or something to keep students busy after they finish their work for the day. 

Overall, this strategy is effective for all grade levels. It provides challenges with their learning materials and helps develop skills without taking up precious class time.

Best practices for using anchor charts throughout the learning process

There is no one way to use anchor charts in your classroom. Whatever works best for you and your students is what you should do!

If you’re looking for premade templates, there are plenty of options and printables online. However, if you’re wanting to create your own charts, here are some of the best practices that you should keep in mind. 

  1. First and foremost, you want your anchor chart to have a simple heading that tells students exactly what they are looking at. This will help them utilize the anchor chart throughout the lesson when applicable. For example, if you were making a writing anchor chart, you'll want a heading like "Writing rules", "Punctuation tips" or "Creative vs. Narrative Writing".
  2. Use an easily readable font and writing size. If you are writing the words by hand, make sure they are legible and big enough to read from across the classroom. If there is smaller writing under the headings, think about how large it needs to be. 
  3. Display the chart in a place where it’s visible to the entire class. You can even try standing in various parts of the room to make sure that every student will be able to see it. Hanging it on the whiteboard or bulletin board seems like the most obvious option, but there are likely many other places that will work. An easel is a great option if you don’t have much wall space. 
  4. If you’re going to reuse or move the anchor chart often, you may want to laminate it. This will keep it in better condition and let you use it year after year. Laminating is also great if you want to write on the chart for multiple classes. Just use a dry-erase marker and wipe it off when you’re done!

Bonus time-saving tip: If you don't have enough time to create anchor charts in class with your students, consider researching and stocking up on them when planning lessons. That way, you'll have supplemental materials to support your students ahead of each lesson. They can also be really helpful for aiding substitute teachers too!

Create a fun & engaging learning environment for your students

Anchor charts are a useful classroom tool for teachers that can help create a better learning environment. They help students stay on task, be more engaged and understand the classroom material better. There are multiple ways to use anchor charts based on the age of your students, the subject you teach and students’ individual needs. 

Prodigy is another great tool for personalizing the learning experience. This game-based learning platform provides math and English skill practice for students in elementary and middle school grades.

As students play Prodigy Math or Prodigy English, they'll answer teacher-made, curriculum-aligned questions that are carefully selected by an adaptive algorithm to help students focus on their areas of opportunity and growth.

As a teacher, you can use Prodigy in your class at no cost. Plus, you'll get access to tools that'll help you:

  • Assess students – Deliver engaging assignments and assessments to your students
  • Bridge learning gaps – Use reports in your teacher portal to spot and solve learning gaps
  • Differentiate learning – Provide personalized, standards-aligned skill practice with no grading necessary!

And many more benefits!

Find out what teachers had to say about using Prodigy below or create your free teacher account to get started!

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