Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Anchor Charts: Math Samples and Tips

Earlier this month, I posted samples of some of my multiplication & division anchor charts from last year. Click here to read that post if you missed it. I consider myself somewhat of an anchor chart aficionado. Now...this is not because my charts are the most beautiful, but because I create them with the kids, refer back to them constantly, and train my kids to really use them.

My 2 biggest pet peeves on anchor charts are...

  • 1) It must be easy to read and focus on the important information. i.e. Simple is better.
  • 2) Charts should be created with the students.

With the explosion of Pinterest I think our anchor chart expectations have morphed from simple (think back to your sample charts in Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell) to creating great works of art with the students and I don't think you NEED to do that. I appreciate all those glorious charts on Pinterest, I really do. They clearly took time and artistic talent to create and color, but in the classroom...in the moment... I just go with it and get it done. 

Here are a few samples of other math charts I created last year:
 I created this with my students after we discovered all the ways to make a dollar using like coins. This was  the product of our discussion and findings. I used the giant money die cuts to save myself some time (and make it look cool).

TIP: Use die cuts to add color and dimension to your chart. They tape right on and peel right off.

 This is a good example of a poster I made AFTER a class discussion. The kids had so many good ideas I wanted to get it ALL on the poster. It was very busy with too many colors and too much info. My kids didn't use it. It was like information overload. So then, I simplified...

Guess which one my students preferred?  

TIP: Keep your colors easy to read and your information direct and kid friendly.

 Excuse the crinkles in this one. It got a little beat up during the classroom clean out. I often have students draw this same chart in their math journals while I am working on the poster.  We come back and add vocabulary and models throughout the unit as needed. 

TIP: If created with the students, you can even get "permission" to use short-cuts like just saying dimes and pennies. They know. You know. It's like secret code. That obviously makes it cooler.

 This was actually a 3rd grade poster I saved.  I did have the "brownies" pre-cut and ready to glue on the top during the lesson. I also had the table already created and we just filled it in during the lesson/discussion.

TIP: Set up titles and any organization for the chart ahead of time. Then you can just fill it in.

 Eek! This one will change next year, because I just attended a whole day of professional development on fractions and the presenter suggested defining fractions as numbers between whole numbers, not simply saying they are part of a whole. Oops! So... go with this for an example of a math unit poster. Basically, it starts with defining the operation/math skill in the most simple terms, then identifying key vocabulary and models for the unit. 

TIP: Using a similar set up for anchors helps students know how to read them and how to use them. They know where to look for the information they need.

Truly there is NOTHING special about this poster. It is simply vocabulary, but I wanted to explain why I only use 2 colors. I use two colors to make it easier to review and learn the vocabulary. It helps kids narrow down the choices while they are still learning and practicing these unknown words.  For example I might say, "I'm thinking of a purple word that means two lines crossing." Students would be able to eliminated the red words immediately and look for the correct word to match my definition. More colors would narrow the choices too much.  It's like the Goldilocks of color choices...two is just right.  

TIP: Use 2 colors when listing vocabulary words.

So... those are my charts. They are not beautiful. They are not great works of art. They are definitely real and created in the moment. They are student friendly and easy to use which is my ultimate goal. 

Several readers on my last post gave some great tips for anchor charts too. 

Kaitlyn from Smiles and Sunshine says:
  • I also try to block out sections that I know I will draw or do something special-and then work around it! When making a list, I try to do the bullet points a quick little picture-like a heart or star, so it looks interesting but doesn't take up a lot of time to do. 
  • A fun font always works for the title-the kids love it when I do titles, because they like it when I hand draw the letters wonky! 
  • I also post new charts directly above old ones-so by the end of the year, we have a nice stack! This way, my kids can look back at previous charts if they need help remembering something.

  • I've taken photos for students to add to their reflection journals.

Brilliant, right?! I think adding pictures of your anchors to journals would be very beneficial! Plus, once you take the pictures you could post to your classroom blog or email the pictures to parents to keep them in the loop. Wonky titles are also a fun way to add pizzazz to the chart while keeping the information clear and easy to read. Thank ladies for sharing your great ideas. Make sure to click the above links to go check out their awesome blogs.

I'd love to hear more. How do you keep your charts pretty and student friendly? Any tips for creating the "perfect" chart?  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fiction Friday: Chapter 5

Happy Friday and welcome back to the next installment of Fiction Friday. Today's post will be quick. I'm leaving for Seattle today and I have not even pulled out my suitcase. Oops!

This week I read..


Dead City
by James Ponti

Molly Bigelow has always been a wee bit strange. She attends a school for gifted children, took Jeet Kune Do classes instead of ballet, and was a New York City Audubon Society Junior Birder. Not to mention, she enjoys hanging out at city morgue with dead people. Like I said, Molly's not your normal teenager. However, all these out of the box activities and unusual hobbies were really part of her training to become an Omega, a New York City zombie hunter, just like her late mother. It turns out Molly has just the skills she needs to set her apart, make life-long friends, and follow in her mother's footsteps to become a zombie hunter legend. 

I'll be honest, when this book arrived on my doorstop courtesy of Amazon, I openly mocked it. I thought are you kidding me?  Zombie fiction for fourth graders, yuck! Where has all the good literature gone? I was ready to hate it. I put off reading it. I judged the book by the cover. And then...I read the prologue. Five pages entitled "Your Probably Wondering Why There's a Dead Body in the Bathroom" and I was HOOKED. The story is told from Molly's perspective and I loved her! Molly is witty, sarcastic, and a character worth rooting for from the beginning. Here's a little sneak peak into the writing style and the beginning that kept me begging for more.

"I hate zombies. I know that sounds prejudiced. I'm sure some zombies are really nice to kittens and love their parents. But it's been my experience that most are not the kind of people you want sending you friend requests. Consider my current situation...I'm trapped in a locker-room toilet stall. With a dead body. (Ponti, 5)

Dead City was excellent. Great voice, very funny, and non-stop action throughout the book. It is appropriate for grades 4 and up and would be a fun read aloud. In many ways it reminds me of The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan. I couldn't put those books down because I loved Percy and his band of friends out there fighting the good fight. This is similar, expect instead of gods and goddess, they are fighting the undead. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I am already looking at picking up the sequel. 

43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You
by Kate Klise

Ignatious B. Grumply, a once famous children's book author, moves into a Victorian mansion on 43 Old Cemetery Road to try and cure his writer's block. Hoping for some peace and quiet so he can work, Ignatious B. Grumply finds more than he expects.  He is not alone. There is an 11 year old boy living on the 3rd floor and a ghost named Olive living in the cupola. Hmmm... Can all three of them live and possibly work together or is it time for someone to go?

I pulled this book out of my classroom collection, because so many of my students had enjoyed it last year and I was curious to know what all the fuss was about. Told entirely through letters and newspaper articles, the book is so different to read I can see why so many kids gravitated towards it. I give huge credit to Kate Klise who developed such memorable, flawed, but very likable characters using only letters.

The guided reading level on this book is a U, but I think it is more readable than that. I would recommend it for grades 3-5. As I said, my fourth graders loved it, so you already know it is kid approved!  It's unique story, word play (I. B. Grumply and Anita Sale for example), pictures, and format make it a delicious read. I devoured it in one sitting and closed the book with a smile on my face. The sign of good read.

That's it for me. More books to come next week. Has anyone read these two novels?  What did you think?

Don't forget to add your own book reviews by linking up to Fiction Friday anytime. I'm off to pack.

Happy reading!!



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anchor Charts: Multiplication & Division

I started my morning in the garage. If you remember I had heaps and heaps of school stuff in there from moving EVERYTHING out of my classroom at the end of the year. There was so much that my two car garage didn't even fit one car. I really need to get everything in order.

BUT...It's hot and humid in there. Plus, there are mosquitoes and I loath mosquitoes. Apparently, they do not feel the same way. They love me. So, with deet infused bug spray, a strong fan, and a sense of purpose, I set out this morning to organize my anchor charts.

A couple of my thoughts on anchor charts...

  • They are much more powerful and meaningful when made WITH the students. I know this means they won't always be pretty, but it's important that the kids play a critical role in creating it. If they get sloppy and you just can't take it, then you can always rewrite a cleaner version after school, but as long as you make it with the kids, it has meaning to them. 
  • Simple is  better.  Keep it clean, simple, and easy to read from a distance. Cute doesn't always mean effective. 
  • Set up your anchor chart beforehand. Add the title and designs to the anchor chart before your lesson. Then, add the "meaty" information with the kids.
  • Black marker does not make it boring. Black marker is hands down the easiest to read. I use black constantly. If it is important, it needs to be written in a color that is easy to read. I like black, dark blue, dark, green, and purple. I use the lighter fun colors for my titles and to highlight really important words.
  • Every color does not need to make an appearance on every chart. This goes back to keeping it simple and easy to read. Can you tell it's a big theme of mine?
  • Mr. Sketch markers are the only acceptable markers to use when creating anchor charts. I'm obviously being dramatic here, but they are my absolute favorite markers for anchors. Although, watch out for the light pink. It smells good and it's pretty, but it also fades.  
  • Anchor charts are a valuable teaching tool. If you use them and reference them, the kids will too. However, just like most things, modeling is required. :) 

Several years ago, I saw this great idea about an anchor chart binder. The teacher put a picture of all her anchor charts in a binder for both teacher and student future reference. I thought this was a brilliant way to save wall space and keep a record of all the anchors for the year. While I have never been organized enough to do that, I have taken pictures of a few that I wanted to be sure to repeat the following year. The best part about the picture is that is forces me to recreate it with my students but gives me a goal for how I want things to look and what information I want to include. 

Here are just a few of my charts on multiplication and division from this past year.


This chart stared with only a header and then the model/strategy t-chart. You can see by my imperfect lines that I don't stress out too much about it being perfect. As a class we defined multiplication in the most simple terms and added to our chart as we went through the unit.


This is the division chart to match the multiplication. This was before we got into long division.


I love this one because it shows students the many different ways they could divide basic facts. Many of my students get turned around with the circles and sticks model, so they love seeing the table. The table really helps keep them organized.


This chart was generated after a discussion about the similarities/differences between multiplication and division. All information was student generated.

I took pictures of tons of my math, writing, and reading anchor charts from the last year and then gave the charts the toss. It's all part of my purge, purge, purge plan. 

Do you guys keep your anchor charts year to year?  Which ones do you save?  Any more helpful tips on keeping them pretty while also keeping them student generated?


More pictures to come...