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The Art of the Chart

Mrs. Mimi's Chalk Talks

The Art of the ChartAs I think about making my classroom rock next year, I have to confront the graveyard of a classroom I left behind this summer.   


One thing I noticed is that some of classroom charts are looking...well...sad. Sad, unused and shabby. At one time they stood as beautifully color-coordinated monuments to our learning, but now, now my friends, they have become simply wallpaper. 

 

I take a lot of pride in my classroom, so this recent realization was quite disheartening. These charts were just unacceptable. So, I turned to some of my fabulous colleagues and a few good books and came up with this list (you know how we teachers love a good list!). I hope this helps you feel a bit wound up with that Let’s-Get-Our-Learning-On energy as the school year kicks off this fall.


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How To Jazz Up My Strategy Charts

 

Take down your sad, yellowed old charts

Just take a deep breath and remove them from your walls. Recycle immediately and repeat. Or, if you can’t handle tossing your previously hailed-as-genius charts in the old recycling bucket, consider stapling them together in a big book and putting them in your library. Point out the new addition to your kiddos...they love that stuff!


Consider using photographs to jazz up new charts and make them look different

Sometimes we just need to add some new visual interest to our old ways. I am currently obsessed with encouraging my second graders to make connections across subject areas. Each time a child makes a Smart Connection, I take their photo, smack it on some construction paper and add their connection. Then I hang it from the lights and presto! Connection making has caught on like wildfire.


Associate a movement or gesture to each key point of your chart  

Many kids learn through association and if they can have a quick gesture or movement to remind themselves of a smart strategy, it just may stick with them that much more. Also, these gestures work as a fast reminder when flashed lovingly across the classroom. 

 

For example, in our recent unit on non-fiction reading, we talked about the importance of the title, as it gets our minds ready for what we will learn inside the book. I already had the teaching point charted neatly, but kept using cheesy Jazz Hands every time I mentioned the title. The kids started to associate my Jazz Hands with the title, and in front of them, I drew a little character with Jazz Hands on my chart. Off they went to read and I saw Jazz Hands (and title noticing!) all over the classroom. After awhile, have your kids come up with the gestures.

 

Switch up the size of your charts...ever try a table tent chart?? 

I have recently come to love the table tent chart. LOVE! I have used them before during writing workshop to encourage the correct spelling of high frequency words via a pint sized word wall. However, I just started creating table top tent strategy charts that are working like a charm! On one side, I took the large version of our strategy chart, and re-wrote it on some regular paper. On the other side, I put a sample of our shared writing also reduced to regular sized paper. I laminated, made a little tent and viola! Fabulousness. 

 

Individualized strategy charts (also known as index cards with smart stuff written on them)

Some of my kiddos struggle more than others. I have a select few who have been struggling with the same reading, writing or math strategies all year. In a final act of desperation, I called these friends to the rug in small groups and presented them with their very own pocket-sized strategy charts. We revisited our previous learning in each respective area, and then practiced using the mini strategy chart to remind ourselves of this learning. I then reminded my little ones to pull out this chart every time they do reading, writing, or math (some friends got all three!!) However, just having that small, personal reminder at their seats seems to be helping so far. 


The moral of my little story is that it’s never too late to switch things up in an attempt to re-energize your classroom. These things worked for me, and didn’t have me up until all hours, and I hope one or two (or all) of them might work for you. Happy spring!


Recommended Books:

  • A Quick Guide to Making Your Teaching Stick, K-5 (Workshop Help Desk) by Shanna Shwartz
  • A Quick Guide to Teaching Persuasive Writing, K-2 (Workshop Help Desk) by Sarah Picard Taylor

Do you use wall charts? Share your favorite ideas and strategies in the comments section!

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