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Writing Workshop: Everything You Need To Know To Create an Anchor Chart

1. Writing Workshop: Anchor Charts 101

2. Everything You Need To Know To Create an Anchor Chart for Writing Workshop

3. Writing Workshop: Everything You Need To Know To Create an Anchor Chart


“I don’t have room for all these anchor charts in my classroom.”

Does this sound familiar?

I often found myself repeating this over and over again as a classroom teacher. And then, I’d wonder:

             What kind of anchor chart should I make?
             How can I elevate the level of my anchor charts?
            How long should I keep an anchor chart up?

Keep reading for the answers if you’ve ever asked yourself these questions.

Anchor charts are an essential tool used to support instruction.

As you teach, you use your anchor charts to capture strategies that students can refer back to during mini-lessons, small groups, and independent writing time. Anchor charts also help build a culture of literacy by making the thinking visible as well as supporting all different learners within your classroom (i.e., visual, auditory, ELLs).

Anchor charts are typically created in real-time with students during a mini-lesson. They can display both student and teacher thinking by including teacher and student writing samples.

Then, you can display them on the wall for students to refer back to. Make sure to update them throughout the school year. Read more below about the many different anchor charts you can create to enhance your teaching and student learning.

Types of Anchor Charts

1. Procedural Anchor Charts

Use procedural anchor charts to highlight routines and systems within your Writing Workshop block. You’ll likely introduce these charts at the beginning of the school year when launching the workshop. You can create a chart for each new routine or system you want to teach or revisit old ones that need extra practice throughout the school year. You can use the anchor chart in the image for primary grades (K-2) to establish a Writing Workshop set-up routine.

2. Writing Behaviors Charts

Writing behavior anchor charts highlight behaviors we want our writers to build into habits. As your writers become more sophisticated throughout the school year, you want to make sure that your behavior charts match the level of your writers. You can use the anchor chart below to help establish stamina. Students can visibly see their goal as well as their progress as they work on building their stamina.

EXPERT TIP: Once your students build a writing habit, you can retire the anchor chart.


3. Individual Strategy Charts

Individual strategy charts focus on a single writing strategy. They aim to break down the strategy into clear, bite-sized steps that you’ll model during the teach section of a mini-lesson. Each unit of study cycles through the writing process (generating, choosing/developing, planning, drafting, editing, revising/elaborating).

Along the way, you introduce your writers to different strategies within each part of the writing process. The right anchor chart focuses on the writing process’s generating portion. It introduces a single strategy students can use when generating ideas for a true story. While you teach using your anchor chart, it’s key that the words you use match what’s on the anchor chart. Example: Saying true stories on your chart but using the term ‘small moments’ while you demonstrate.

4. Menu of Strategies Charts

If you’re introducing several additional strategies within that same part of the writing process, you can build a menu of strategies anchor chart. Unlike a zoomed-in strategy chart, a menu of strategies chart has several methods to select from. These charts give students the power to make their own decisions as to which one they want to use in their writing. The anchor chart to the left has five different strategies that

students can choose from when generating ideas for a personal narrative.

EXPERT TIP: Once you’ve introduced a strategy to add to the menu chart, you can retire the individual strategy chart.


5. Process Charts

Process charts are an excellent way to set your students up for independence by supporting them in understanding where to go next in their writing. These types of charts highlight a certain part of the writing process within a genre and can be displayed throughout a unit of study.

EXPERT TIP: Make small samples of anchor charts for students to keep in their writing folders.


6. Characteristics of the Genre Charts

Genre charts highlight characteristics of a genre, such as topics, text features, structure, tone, and author’s purpose. You can make these charts during the immersion week when highlighting craft moves and techniques of a specific genre. The anchor chart to the right highlights the characteristics of narrative writing.

7. Exemplar Piece Charts

This chart is a key lever during immersion week. You can also create it with your writer’s input. It highlights the characteristics of a strong writing piece. The chart is a living, breathing document which students can revise as they learn more about the genre and develop their level of sophistication. The anchor chart below highlights certain characteristics of an informational writing piece, such as catchy subtitles, pictures, and captions.

EXPERT TIP: While students are editing and revising, it can be helpful to reintroduce this chart and remind them what they can approximate from other writers!


8. Checklists Charts

Editing checklist charts help students monitor their progress during the revision and editing process. Make copies so students can refer back to them in their folders. Often, students will be in different stages of the writing process, so it’s helpful to have something to reference. These charts can be revised as students learn more throughout the unit and learn more sophisticated skills.

Expert Tips for Effective Anchor Charts

There are many different ways to improve your anchor charts. Below are three ways you can elevate your anchor charts.

1. Add visuals: One way to raise the level of your charts and support your learners is to add visuals. This is essential for our primary readers and writers to be more independent when using charts. These visuals ideally match your teacher demonstration piece. For example, if you are writing about using a big feeling, such as being excited to generate small moments you can write about, include a visual of those feelings on the anchor chart. You can also include drawings, print out clipart, or add photographs of your student doing the steps or process.

2. Include examples from mentor texts: You can include examples from mentor texts that have already been introduced and read to your class. These examples can be photocopied and placed directly on the chart.

3. Include writing samples demonstrating the writing strategy: Writing samples can be either teacher or student created. These can be used on anchor charts to show a model example of the strategy.

Anchor Chart Maintenance

Anchor charts are most helpful when students see and use them! Make sure you have a designated place in your room to display your workshop charts. It’s useful when all writing charts are together in one area. When using anchor charts during Writing Workshop, make sure to display them in a clutter-free space in your gathering area.

Once you have introduced your chart during your mini-lesson, you should be referencing it consistently throughout and every time you state the teaching point. Following your mini-lesson, keep the anchor chart visible for all students to reference as they work independently. This also allows you to reference the charts while conferring, in small groups, and during partnership work. You can also refer to the chart at the end of the workshop during the teaching share.

Decide if you’ll display or retire the chart by surveying your writers. If you retire a chart and you have the space, keep it. If not, take a picture of it. If you continue to display the chart, place it in a clutter-free, prominent spot designated for workshop charts. You can create smaller versions for students to put in their folders or keep them at the writing center.

EXPERT TIP: A great way to know when to retire a chart is to survey your students and ask, “who uses this chart?” If a small number of students use the chart, you can make smaller individualized copies for those students and take down the original.

Whether you’re just getting started with creating anchor charts or have been doing them for a while, hopefully, some of these ideas might be helpful for you as you think about which type of anchor charts you can make, how to elevate your anchor charts, and how long you should keep an anchor chart up.

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