Increasing Engagement with Anchor Charts

A friend of mine asked if I still felt that anchor charts were necessary in a classroom environment that is moving toward a paperless environment. Without a second thought I said "YES!" Anchor charts are not just a teacher created poster to be hung on the wall. They are evidence of learning and engagement. 

In the picture above, my students collaborated in groups to show evidence of their learning and understanding of the skill to compare and contrast. We need this skills for all subject areas. My students are comparing an apple and an orange.

 At each table (group) I gave them an apple and an orange to inspect. Then I provided them with the large anchor chart part, markers, and sticky notes. Before starting their discussion, I asked them to write down the differences they saw on the pink sticky note and the similarities on the green sticky note. 

On a previous day, we had completed an interactive notebook page on comparing and contrasting. This provided information that they would need to reflect upon in order to determine HOW to create an anchor chart. That is correct... I do not tell my students how to create their charts. I just ask them to create one. 

There were 7 groups in my classroom last year. That means we created 7 anchor charts on this topic. Each one was unique. I do not display all of them. We vote and decide which one is the best representation of our learning. The winning group earns a prize of their choice (lunch with me, leave at the end of the day 5 seconds early, 5 free minutes on the computer, eat a piece of candy in class, or 5 minutes of free reading time). 

The poster above won. They took the definitions from our interactive notebooks. Created a venn diagram and added their sticky notes to it and then added our clue words to help us identify comparisons in our reading. After I took this picture, the winning group collected the other sticky notes and added it to their project. 

This is the STUDENTS work. It is not mine. They have taken ownership of it and by taking ownership they are engaged and retain the information better. 

Here is another one of our posters but for math. I use the mnemonic device "Every Dangerous Monkey Steals Bananas" to help my students remember the steps for long division. This group decided to create a large monkey holding bananas to demonstrate their understanding of this concept. 

I don't think you can see it well in this picture but the face of the monkey shows you the steps in another way. The pupils are division symbols, the nose has an x on it (the multiplication symbol), and the mouth they made as straight as possible while trying not to look sad to represent the subtraction symbol. 

Are my anchor charts every perfect and pin worthy? NO! But each and everyone represents a group of students working together on an academic goal, collaborating, discussion, learning, and fully engaged. 

Digital Anchor Charts

Why don't you just have your students use a program to do this digitally? I could. One day I will probably have no choice but to move my anchor charts to a digital format. However, I prefer this method still as I feel that the research better supports this format. 

With paper and pen, I can see my student's original ideas flowing forth. They are not simply looking for someone else's idea to copy and paste. My kinesthetic students are able to manipulate their learning with their hands.I can hear them discussing what is important to include and what isn't. 

I see my artists bloom with the ability to freely create how they view the lesson in their mind. My students have no directions other than to create a poster that represents their learning. How they do this is up to them. If they want different supplies and I have them, then they can use them. 

I know that this activity eats up a lot of time but I also know that when my students participate in this activity that they will have mastered the content by the end. When they next encounter it in a lesson or a test, they will reflect and remember this experience and it will no longer challenge them. 

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