Category Archives: instruction

Anchor Charts are Enchanting: An end of year Reflection

what is in my desk
This anchor chart made “desk check” easy in a first grade classroom. I had trouble with kids putting things in their desk they didn’t need, and not having the things they did. It’s obvious that you should have a book bag and a writing folder, or something has gone wrong. It’s also obvious that “little toy Lego man” is not supposed to be in your desk. 

I have trouble letting go of my students at the end of the school year, and that’s not surprising.  What is surprising is my difficulty with throwing away old anchor charts.

My anchor charts, which are usually written with the students present and then decorated afterwards, remind me of students and lessons of the past.  I look at them and see the faces.  I remember how the lessons went.

Anchor charts are all about problems and solutions.  You see a rough spot in instruction — the students are having trouble doing whatever it is — and you make a chart to help them.

Seems too simple to be believed.  But I had kids in first grade who couldn’t keep their conduct folders straight.  This chart allowed them to see that the conduct chart is always on the left, the homework is always on the right.  Then, when I would go around at the end of the day, it was easy to make sure they had everything they needed to go home. 

Classroom management is a big reason that I write anchor charts.  It’s worthwhile to post on the wall what an expectation is.  But over the years I’ve felt that the biggest user of anchor charts is me.  I refer to them all day long.

As part of my garage clean out, I took pictures of all the anchor charts.  Now I’ve organized them into different topics.  And I’ve decided to post them here on the blog, in case they may be of help to someone.  The truth is, a lot of them are adaptations of other people’s charts or advice.  Some are, on the other hand, totally mine.  The ones I’m sharing today were a lot of help in a first grade class.

My Back-End, Zero-Instructional-Time-Used Reader’s Workshop

child readingClassical curriculum is very much a stand-and-deliver, sage on the stage type of instruction.  So how do you get the well-documented benefits of independent reading and talking about books (often called “reader’s workshop”) in the classical classroom when you’ve got no minutes to implement it and no mandate from administration?  You can, through what I’ve decided to call the Back End Reading Workshop, or, if you like, reading when you’re done with your work and other times during the day.

What will you need?  The following are the components:

1) Teach students that when they are done with any written assignment they are expected to read a book.  The thing to emphasize is that the book must be open or they are off-task.  The completed written assignment should be on their desk where you can see it so you know they are done and free to read. They should bring one book from home and have it in their backpack for this purpose. If they don’t have a book lend them one.

2) Collect books for a classroom library. Label the books with your name and something along the lines of “classroom book.”  I used to put the classroom number but since room numbers change, that’s not efficient.  Just your name.

3) Teach the students how to evaluate whether they want to read a book.  Tell them they must be able to read enough of the words so the book makes sense.  Tell them the book should be interesting.  Tell them if it’s not working, to take it back and get something else.

4)  Allow students to raise their hands and go to the library and switch books.  Let them take the books home as long as they ask you first.

5) Now is the time to get the beehive of the classroom library really humming.  Observe the kids, talk to the kids and if necessary take a reading interest inventory of the class and start collecting the books they really want to read.  That means considering subject matter and reading ability level.  The easiest way to do this is to do this is to do a Scholastic Book Club, sending book catalogues home, getting the parents to buy a few books, and choosing classroom books offered for free with your order.

That’s really all you have to do to radically increase the independent minutes read daily by your students.  And the workshop, or discussion of books aspect? That will happen naturally, as the students find books they are excited about and share and talk about them (whispering, of course) while they’re at the desks, eating lunch, waiting in line at the restroom and before and after school.  It happens in my classroom every year — just try it and watch.

Differentiated instructional routines for use with various types of literature

When we chose books for the class, how do we read them?  Classical educators tend to rely on the quality of the books to drive instruction, but is there a place for mainline reading strategies in a classical classroom?  I would say yes, and here is my description of the basic strategies I use in an average week.  I am indebted for this post to Robert Ward (@RewardingEdu) for his blog post “A Balanced approach to teaching literature … “

Who reads what Examples: Appropriate Books Who chooses the book Spotlight Objective
Teacher read aloud:  This strategy is to practice listening comprehension and reader response to heard stories.  It is appropriate for when the text itself is too difficult for the class, but the story is something from which they will benefit Reading “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” to a group of 11th graders.


Reading “Robin Hood” to a fourth grade class.


Reading nursery rhymes in primary grades during circle time.

The classics – canonized literature from the past


Or – popular or nonfiction books from which the students need to comprehend material, and which are too difficult for them to handle alone.

The teacher, after surveying the subject matters the class is covering and their interests. Reading comprehension.
Student shared read:  In which the teacher reads the text and the students track the words.  This is appropriate for when many in the class are able to read the text, but the rest need help and the teacher wants to discuss the material as he or she goes. Making the basal reader into a read aloud in a 3rd or 4th grade classroom.



A cross-section of books, including classics, modern day, and non-fiction, but must be more or less on grade level in order to properly engage student readers. The teacher and the textbook editors of the basal reader.  Student preferences can be considered for selection of stories as well. Comprehension, fluency.
Small group guided reading:  the teacher calls two to six students to a table and they read and/or discuss previous reading as a small group. Leading a group of students who are reading a fantasy novel above grade level and discussing their progress.


Taking a group of below-grade-level students and reading an adventure story about dogs.

 Inexpensive consumable books which are leveled to the small group’s ability.  Because a classroom needs a lot of them, they tend to be nonfiction and inexpensively produced. Students and teacher collaborate in choosing from available books.


If books must be downloaded, teacher must chose after considering needs of students.

Word attack skills, text structure, going back to the text to check, text-to self-connections
Independent reading books chosen one by one, by individual student readers, and read by themselves. Allowing the students free rein over the bookshelves when they have completed their work or when you are leading a small group. Popular novels and nonfiction books are most commonly chosen, but if classic children’s novels are in the library they will also be chosen. Students chose by themselves. Fluency, text-to-self connections