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Oh, How we Love our Charts!

August 24, 2010

Buried in my philosophy of education among the pleas for social justice and renewing the world is this simple fact: Teaching is SO MUCH FUN.

It’s fun for a million reasons but one of those is that I get to make charts. There is nothing like ripping open a brand new box of sharpie bold point flip chart markers and going to town on a teaching point. Perhaps it’s the creation and creativity (or therapy) of it all, but chart-making, for me, ranks up there with decorating a classroom. After all, they serve such vital purposes WHILE making the environment beautiful!

Charts are an interesting beast. When visitors come into my classroom , it’s the charts that get the most attention. I’ve seen people copy and take pictures of the most random charts. (And I do the same thing when I visit others’ classrooms!) It’s funny, right?  So what’s the deal with the chart?

Two weeks ago, Majorie Martinelli gave a talk on this very issue. Here are some key points I loved.

CHARTS..they aren’t just for wallpaper.         Closing Talk by M.Martinelli


Routine: What to do when…
Strategy: Today you can do… OR….
Procedures:  “How to”
What makes a memorable chart?
1. Visuals (pictures, stick figures.)
2. Headings
3. Point to the chart often. “They’ll use it as much as you touch it.”
4. Decide which  charts to keep, retire, pull out when needed…
I loved Marjorie’s words about charts. Naming what makes a chart memorable was KEY. As I reflect on the charts my kids actually used, I realize they were CLEAR, SIMPLE, and USED OFTEN!   A powerful moment for me was watching my students look up to places on the walls where charts used to be as they talked to their partner or used “sparkling words.” This was how I knew they were worth making. I tried to use charts in Read Alouds and Mini Lessons as much as I could. And when I felt like the information on the charts had merged with their thinking, it came down.
Thanks to my dear literacy coach, this year I was able to have more of a structure to my chart madness. Each part of the wall/room held certain types of charts. For example, the front of the room held Partner Language, Helping Words, and Sparkling Words (synonyms for boring words like “nice” or “good”). The left wall was for the current writing unit, the right wall for the current reading unit, and a separate space for “all year” charts. This made it SO much easier to keep up with, rotate, and refer to.
I’ve included some charts I found at the end of the year. These poor charts didn’t make it into my unit binders, but I feel like I will want to revise them or use them in some capacity in the future.

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