Sunday, January 14, 2018

Anchor Charts vs. Posters: What's the Difference?

Anchor Chart: it's a phrase used commonly in education. They adorn walls in classrooms across the country, and, when used correctly, they can be an excellent instructional tool.
But sometimes the phrase "anchor chart" is used to refer to something that isn't an anchor chart at all. It's a poster. 
So what's the difference?
Let's start with anchor charts. There are a few things that make them special:
Anchor charts are...
  •  made DURING the lesson.
  • records of student and teacher thinking.
  • an anchor (ahhhh) for student learning.
  • placed on the wall to help students recall the lesson experience and content.
  • replaced when they are no longer needed or useful to students.
  • interactive. They can be added to over time.
  • full of student and teacher handwriting.
  •  purposeful. 
Anchor charts are not...
  • printed out from a file or teacher-created and possibly laminated.
  • done BEFORE the lesson.
  • records of teacher thinking or information only.
  • static; remaining the same  over time.
  • wallpaper in the classroom.
  • the same year after year.
  • decorations.
 Those are posters.

So let's talk a little bit about how to use anchor charts effectively.

Tip #1: Use them purposefully.

Anchor charts come into play when there's an important concept and learning experience that you want kids to recall. You may be a planner: you may know in advance that you plan to use an anchor chart to record and think through the lesson with kids. But you might not. You may be suddenly inspired during a lesson, whip out a blank chart paper, and go to town! Either way is ok!

That being said, you probably don't want an anchor chart for every single lesson. It's overwhelming and cluttered. You may want to identify the main concepts you want kids to have a reference for and build charts in those situations. As charts become outdated or unnecessary, take them down so you can replace them with current ones.

You can save the old charts, if you think kids will need to refer to them later. You can also just stack new charts on top of the old chart, by stapling only across the top.

Tip #2: Do some thinking first.

Some people have a template for the anchor chart before they begin the lesson. Having a general idea of structure and organization for your chart is a good thing, but you don't need (or even want) to have every last detail planned out. If you already know what you're going to write on the chart, you're less likely to allow for kid input.

It definitely helps to have kid-friendly definitions or language ready so you're not fumbling for how to word certain things on your chart. Ideally, you'll probably have this as part of your lesson planning anyway.

Tip #3 Include a learning target.
I try to include a learning target, purpose, or title on the chart. This helps kids recall what the point of the lesson was. I also will try to include the concept information (main bullet points of important ideas) needed for kids to recall the lesson later.

Tip #4 Try it out!
Then, we try the strategy out in the way that I want kids to try it later. We might use sentence starters, post-it responses, task cards, or a graphic organizer to help kids try out the strategy, and record it on the chart. 

Tip #5 Don't stress about beautiful-ness!

I keep it all-natural :) I record as we go through the lesson. I try to use color well, but honestly, I usually forget. My charts are not beautiful or gorgeous. You can definitely see a difference between the charts I make as a sample and the charts I make in the moment in the classroom. And that's ok! If they're legible and they're purposeful, and kids can access the information on them, they're fine!

Some teachers take home charts after the fact to rewrite them. The issue with this is that, at that point, it no longer looks like the chart you made with your students during the lesson. It's invariably organized differently or has information in different places. Will kids still refer back to it, or will it become wallpaper?

The main purpose of an anchor chart is to be a useful record for student reference. It anchors student learning to the chart. Posters, while they may be attractive and perfectly designed, are not anchor charts. They serve a completely different purpose.

Do you have any great tips for using anchor charts?

 Pin It

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A TEK-a-Day: Texas Test Prep Made Easy!

As an instructional coach, I spent a lot of time trying to find good quality resources for my teachers to use when teaching literacy.

Sometimes this was easy and fun! Mentor texts! Classroom libraries! Sometimes this wasn't so fun. Texas reading test prep. Yuck.

The most important things we do aren't test prep, but you wouldn't know that from looking at the reports released from the state!

One resource my teachers frequently asked for, but weren't able to find, was a test prep resource that would allow them to teach test prep a little at a time, rather than a huge, long, horrendous, boring passage. 

They wanted a short passage to use each week, and then different types of questions each day. 

One question a day, they said! 

That'll help us reinforce the skills without drilling and killing, and spending so much of our time on test prep! 

I searched high and low but couldn't really find exactly what we were looking for.

So I decided to make it. And so the TEK-a-Day Test Prep was born!

Please know that I didn't create this product so you could spend more time on test prep. I created so you could spend less, better quality time on test prep.

I've really worked hard to ensure that this resource is TEKS and test-aligned. My pet peeve is when untested TEKS are included in a reading passage, or when the test prep materials sold by big companies don't match what kids will actually see on the day of their test. We should teach widely, of course, but if we're preparing them for something high-stakes, shouldn't our materials be accurate?

Here's what's in the resource. If you're like my teachers, it's exactly what you've been looking for! 

Short Genre-aligned Texts & Daily TEK-aligned questions

Each week has one short text - a half-page text - in different genres that are tested in that grade. For example, in third grade, I start the first nine weeks with literary genres (fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction), and in the second nine weeks I add informational genres (expository and embedded procedural). 

In fourth grade, students are exposed to these genres plus drama, and in fifth grade, they also receive persuasive passages.

For each text, there are five questions: one for each day of the week. Monday is a word study question (context clues, affixes/root words, and dictionary definitions where applicable). The other days spiral TEKS tested on the state test. If it's not tested, I didn't include it. The purpose is to focus test-taking skills on the kinds of questions kids will see.

I used a variety of question stems and focused my efforts on those TEKS that are most heavily tested, although all test-eligible TEKS are introduced (except for one in fourth and one in fifth that have never been tested, but are eligible for testing).

Each nine weeks adds a new layer to what kids are asked to do in preparation for their test. In fourth and fifth grade, the third and fourth nine weeks include questions in the 19F style - questions where the kids compare the readings from the previous two weeks.

Academic Vocabulary Word Wall & Guide
In order to make this an all-inclusive test prep resource, I also added in academic vocabulary.

The word wall includes vocabulary that is generic to reading (summary, infer, support), and genre-specific vocabulary (main character, cause-and-effect, cast, props).

Word wall cards are included and a vocabulary guide explains when each word is introduced to you can build a word wall by genre.

Writing & Reading Extensions

To support kids making connections to texts, I also included writing extensions and recommended
readings to continue the learning.

These recommended books are thematically or topically connected, and it can be as easy as checking some out from the library and leaving them on a book display for interested readers!

The writing extensions are from a variety of modes of writing - all of them supported in the TEKS. I wrote the expository prompts in the fourth grade Texas writing test style.

It's also a great way to keep those kids who finish quickly engaged.

Answer Keys & TEKS Data Trackers
Answer keys are included for everything, and they include the TEK/SE coding as well, so you can track student data and see how they're doing in each area! 

I also included several versions of the answer sheet - one that doesn't include the TEKS and one that does, in case you have kids track their own data.

To help you track student data, there's a data tracker in printable and digital format (Keynote and PowerPoint) so you can edit on your computer if you prefer!

Large Print Versions
So many teachers have to provide a large print version to their students, and I know from personal experience that this can be very time-consuming, and sometimes difficult, depending on the formatting of the document. So I included large-print versions of the passages for each week. This should save you some time!

Teacher pages are also included that explain how to use the program and all of its resources.

So you might want to check it out! If you download the preview file for each bundle on TpT, it will share exactly what is included in the entire bundle, as well as a TEKS alignment guide to help you with year-long planning.

I truly hope this resource helps you spend less-but-better test prep time with your kids.

Third Grade TEK-a-Day Test Prep Bundle
Fourth Grade TEK-a-Day Test Prep Bundle
Fifth Grade TEK-a-Day Test Prep Bundle

 Pin It