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Curriculum Q & A Blog, Question 14

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    EL Education

Do you have questions about teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum? We've got answers!

Come back every week for the latest from the Curriculum Q & A Blog.

Question: Why are anchor charts so important and used so frequently in the curriculum? 

By recording content, strategies, processes, cues, and guidelines from their learning on anchor charts and posting them in the classroom, teachers are able to help students make their thinking visible. Anchor charts empower students to own their learning because they are a place for students to look to for support when answering questions, contributing to discussions, processing their ideas, and writing. When students know where to look for help independently, they don’t always have to ask you. Anchor charts also give students a chance to process their thinking and hear the thinking of others before or during writing, close reading, or other activities that may be challenging for them without such support.

Building Anchor Charts

There are many ways to build anchor charts. In the curriculum, there are some places where you will be cued to create anchor charts in advance of the lesson, others where you will co-create them with students during the lesson, and others where students will create them together in small groups. Sometimes students might work together in small groups to record their ideas on an anchor chart, come back together, present it to the class, and then contribute to one combined class version of the chart. Alternatively, you might work as a whole class to clarify and capture the most important ideas or questions on one anchor chart before students work independently or in small groups.

Generally, anchor charts are living documents that are clarified and added to by you and students. By adding to anchor charts throughout a unit or module or across an entire year, students are able to clarify, update, and expand their growing knowledge. In this way, the charts remain relevant and supportive over time and ensure that all students have access to the same information. There are other times when anchor charts support specific lessons or arcs of lessons and will be created and taken down in short order.

This is the second video in a two-part series that features Sara Metz and her Kindergarten class at Explore Elementary in Thornton, Colorado. It offers a particularly good example of how anchor charts support students to work independently and confidently as they embark on a writing task.

Supporting Students with Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are supportive of students’ varied learning needs and play a valuable role in their learning. This is especially true for ELLs and students who may need additional support with perception and information processing. The very nature of anchor charts allows them to be easily customized based on students’ needs, and they offer an alternative to providing only auditory information. And, unlike text written on a white board, anchor charts can live on in the classroom long after a lesson has ended.

We recommend that you add visuals, definitions, or translations to anchor charts to support ELLs’ language acquisition and ability to access the information on the chart. Anchor charts will provide them with concrete examples as they try to apply the content, strategy, or process represented on them. You can also manipulate the display of information by using larger font or highlighting certain words or phrases. In addition to customizing the charts themselves, you may also want to provide individual copies to students who may need additional support to help them maintain focus, monitor progress, sketch or take notes about their thinking, and access important information as they work independently.

For more general information about our curriculum, check out our website or our book Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: