As she dropped her backpack onto her desk during a recent passing period, a student asked, “Mr. Moore, where are the walls?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen them in ages,” I replied, as I tidied up my library shelves, shoving books back into their alphabetical order.
“But they used to be right there, and there, and two more, there and there,” she pressed, a hint of confusion sneaking into her voice.
I paused for a moment, thinking, before saying, “When was the last time you saw them?”
“I can’t remember.” she replied, slumping down in her desk, reaching for her book.
Finishing up my book shelving task, I took a second to consider what she was trying to tell me. Surveying the panorama of my classroom all I saw were giant white sticky notes. I thought I heard a faint intake, a gasp for air, as if the old walls were struggling to breath, suffocated by their new decoration. Hardly any of the burgundy paint showed through. Instead, the walls were decorated with the tapestries of learning, covered by curtains of craft and content; literacy lessons.
These new walls are better than the old walls. They aren’t frozen in place; a testament to tax dollars. These new walls are mobile – the kids carry them, accessing their information wherever they read and write. Earthquakes can’t wrench these walls from the foundation, nor can they be melted by flame.
I catch a lot of flack for the appearance of my anchor charts. I mix up the colors, try to use shapes, and squiggle my lines. My chart-writing improves daily, yet still my “man handwriting” is criticized by my colleagues and the kids make me re-write words until they are perfectly legible from the moon.
Not all charts are created equally.
First of all, the chart paper can’t be some namby-pamby (made up words) semi-stick, off brand, weak-sauce chart paper. I want the super adhesive, never fall off the wall paper that I can move around, frantically pointing from one chart to another, connecting ideas, pulling their thinking from a previous lesson to connect to a new one.
I’m not the only one doing the pointing. Anchor charts multiply the number of teachers in the room. Maybe one kid elbows another, confused. The elbowed victim points to the board, or the wall, before refocusing on their work.
The universal usefulness of anchor charts helps all of our learners. Inclusion teachers are masters at using our anchor charts. My English learners lean on them frequently. Don’t, however, think that the GT/Pre-AP kids don’t use them. They do, almost as much as anyone.
Somehow, I’ve assumed the mantle of “Anchor Chart Guy.” This means that whenever I bop (stroll? strut?) into the classrooms of other teachers, they demand I cast my gaze upon their anchor chart collections, beaming with teacher pride. For me, anchor charts have become a shibboleth. You either know how important they are or you don’t, and I pity those who fall in the “don’t” category.
We share anchor charts on our team. Often times, we will do each other the favor of snapping a picture of a chart and uploading it to our team planning pages in OneNote. I’ve walked into my teammates classrooms and noticed specific, amazing anchor charts, only to have he or she tell me it was stolen…from me!!! Conversely, I might see one of hers (or his) that appears particularly useful, and I’ll snap a picture of it with my phone, storing that idea for later.
We even started an Anchor Chart Hall of Fame in our OneNote planning notebook. Mostly as a joke…mostly.
I counted my anchor charts on Friday. There were forty. I wasn’t surprised. Those who know me won’t be either.
Charles Moore wants to learn more anchor charts. If you know of a book that is particularly insightful to this idea, please let him know. He’s also looking forward to the weather, and therefore his pool, heating up. And crawfish. Always crawfish. One last note, if you run into him, ask him about the Saga of the Lost Charm Bracelet. You won’t be disappointed. Check out his twitter feed at @ctcoach.