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Teacher & Training Tips

Anchor Charts Anchor Learning

Dr. Rick DuVall, Kagan Trainer and Coach

To cite this article: DuVall, R. Anchor Charts Anchor Learning Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #63. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. www.KaganOnline.com

Illustration of students presenting a chart

Most teachers who use Kagan Structures for active engagement with their students utilize those structures to help promote development of both students’ academic skills and students’ interpersonal skills. How can we help support students as they secure new academic and interpersonal learning? One effective way is to utilize anchor charts! Of course, an actual anchor is an object used to hold something firmly in place by providing stability and security. Likewise, anchor charts can be used to effectively support and scaffold students’ development academically and interpersonally in multiple ways.

What are anchor charts?

Anchor charts are posted visual support for students where verbal ideas are recorded. These are ideas (strategies, processes, cues, guidelines, gambits, and other content) that the teacher wants students to anchor, use, and, ultimately, internalize—helping move students toward success. The charts are created together by the teacher and the students during a lesson or class discussion. They are typically created on chart paper and prominently displayed in the classroom. The anchor charts also can be used as a classroom management tool to propel students toward self-monitoring their behavior by visually reminding them of routines, procedures, and expectations. These charts can be implemented during a guided practice session to help ensure that students are practicing correctly.

Anchor charts serve as a quick reference for students to remind themselves of important ideas until, through enough practice and repetition, those ideas have been internalized.

Why are anchor charts important?

Anchor charts provide a powerfully supportive scaffold for students. They serve as a quick reference for students to remind themselves of important ideas until, through enough practice and repetition, those ideas have been internalized. They can be used to help students set and recognize goals, review concepts, set expectations, and become more actively involved in the classroom.

When do we use anchor charts?

We can use an anchor chart any time we are introducing anything that we want our students to remember. As the teacher explains and models the Kagan Structure or behavioral expectations, the reinforcement is written on the chart paper. We might create an anchor chart to remind students of the steps of a Kagan Structure, set expectations for behavior during a structure (see Figure 1), as prompts for peer coaching during a structure (see Figures 2 and 3), for celebrations and praise (see Figure 4) or specific praise for peers during a structure (see Figure 5), to process and self-evaluate (see Figure 6) upon completion of a structure, or to post a list of acceptable sponge activities for students to work on if they finish an assignment early.

Figure 1: Establishing expectations for partner work

photo of handwritten chart

Figure 2: Gambits for peer coaching

Figure 3: Gambits for peer coaching

Figure 4: Gambits for celebrations and praise

Figure 5: Gambits for specific praise

Figure 6: Processing and self-evaluating a structure

When do we make the anchor charts?

While we might make some anchor charts ahead of time (for example, when preparing to teach the steps of a Kagan Structure, or when helping students develop a social skill that most of them are lacking), most of the time we want to plan out our anchor charts on a scrap piece of paper, and then use it as a guide for creating the anchor charts WITH our students. Students tend to use the anchor charts more when they have been involved with creating the content on the charts. Of course, that is the true goal of anchor charts: having students USE the information—not just decorating the walls of our classrooms!

Illustration of students creating a chart

What is the teacher’s role in implementing anchor charts?

First, a teacher needs to identify the focus and purpose of the anchor chart. Second, engage students in creating the chart. Teachers might use Kagan structures such as Both Record RallyRobin, AllRecord RoundRobin, RoundTable Consensus, or Placemat Consensus for brainstorming what content to record on the chart. When recording ideas on the anchor chart, strive to include only the essential information—key words instead of narratives. Be sure to use academic language that we want students to use. If possible, include icons, graphs, and colors to enhance usefulness. Finally, place the anchor chart in a convenient location where students can visually access it easily.

How do we guide students in using anchor charts?

We can designate a specific area, such as an easel, for creating anchor charts with our students. An anchor chart can be created in a single setting, or an anchor chart can be added to over the course of multiple days. Once there is nothing more to add to the chart, it needs to be placed as a reference point in a strategic, student-friendly location on the wall where students can access it independently. Any time the teacher feels the need to remind students about the content of the anchor chart, be sure to stand beside the anchor chart and visually prompt students, as well as verbally reminding them. Encourage students to refer to the charts and use them as tools as they engage in structures, answer questions, or brainstorm ideas. When students ask questions where the answer is clearly stated on an anchor chart, resist the urge of answering the question. Instead, direct them to the appropriate anchor chart. Soon students will develop the habit of independently searching for answers by reading the room.

Checklist for Anchor Charts

  • Have I identified the focus and purpose of the anchor chart?
  • Have I identified the Kagan Structure that I will use to engage all students in creating the anchor chart?
  • Have I planned for the essential information that must be included in the anchor chart?
  • Have I planned for how I will organize the information so that it is neat and easy for students to read?
  • Have I identified icons, graphs, and colors that will encourage students to use the chart regularly?
  • Have I identified the place to hang the anchor chart so that students easily and independently can access the chart?
  • Have I planned for when I will refer students to use the anchor chart?