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How to use anchor charts in your classroom

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Using anchor charts in the classroom is something that every teacher should be doing. Anchor charts help students make connections with the content. When teaching in a bilingual or dual language classroom, using anchor charts in Spanish is essential because students need to SEE the words they are saying on paper. Anchor charts also help students learn tier-3 vocabulary words in English and Spanish. This is a crucial step in ensuring students can make linguistic connections. In this post, I will show you how to use anchor charts in your classroom to support second language acquisition.

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When I first started teaching in a dual language program, I learned that I needed to use anchor charts to help my students learn English and Spanish. The problem was that no one told me how to do that. Searching the internet proved useless. But through a lot of trial and error, I was finally able to figure out how to do this in my own classroom. Now I want to save you some time and energy by showing you to create and use anchor charts in your classroom.

What are Anchor Charts?

Anchor charts are content-specific posters that you create with your students. The word with here is really important. Premade posters are NOT anchor charts because your students did not participate in the creation process. Now, if you are like me, this may give you some anxiety. I too am awful at creating charts on the spot, so I will share some tips and tricks to make this task a little less daunting. However, using a premade poster that your students have no part in creating is definitely not what we want.

How can anchor charts support language acquisition?

When students are learning a new language, they need to be exposed to new vocabulary constantly in multiple ways. So whenever you are teaching a new skill – for example, how to summarize an informational text – students need to see related words over and over again. We also need to make sure students know what those words mean. We can do that with anchor charts!

Let’s pretend that I am teaching my class how to summarize an informational text in Spanish. Half of my students are Spanish speakers learning English. The other half are English speakers learning Spanish. My job is to bridge that “linguistic gap.” All my students need to understand exactly what we are doing. And I need to stick as much as possible to the language of the day.

For this example, we will pretend the language of the day is Spanish. If I am just introducing summarizing to my students, those who are learning Spanish will have a tough time understanding what we are doing. And we don’t want disengaged learners! Disengagement = behavior! So what do we do? We use the preview-view-review strategy (PVR) and our anchor chart.

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What is PVR?

I have a whole blog post about the preview view review teaching strategy. So if you are not sure what that is, you can click here to read all about it. But for now, you just need to know that the preview-view-review model helps to systematically create connections between home language and target language.

The first step in the PVR model is the preview. If my language of the day is Spanish, the preview will be done in English. This is a quick overview of the lesson – less than five minutes! But during these five minutes, I can go over some of the vocabulary we will be using and record those words in my anchor chart.

The “view step” is the actual lesson, which for our example is happening in Spanish. I go back to the anchor chart I already started and use it to connect the words I am saying in Spanish to the preview we did in English. Now, my Spanish and English speakers are on the same page. They have all seen the words in their home and target languages.

The final step is a review. Just like the preview step, this should be quick. Mine always lasts about three minutes. I often ask a student to summarize our learning for the class. Sometimes, I ask students to turn and talk to a partner about what they learned as I walk around and listen. The preview and review are always in the same language. For our example, the preview and review would be in English because the main lesson was in Spanish. I always encourage students to go back to the anchor chart and use the words we learned.

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Sounds like a lot of work?

It is actually not! Once you have established a routine and learn to use anchor charts to your advantage, the process becomes very easy. To me, the hardest part was always creating the anchor charts. When given unlimited time to work on them, I can create nice anchor charts, but I just don’t have the time for that. I know many people find anchor charts online and sketch them using a projector, but that also takes a lot of time.

My solution was to create printable anchor charts with “fill in the blank spaces.” Like I said before, posters are NOT anchor charts because students didn’t participate in the creation process. The posters were completely finished before students even saw them. But by leaving “blank spaces” in my charts, students can now help me create them. I use students’ input to fill in the blank spaces, and they have an interactive notebook page that goes with the anchor chart. So as I create a chart for the classroom, my students complete a page in their notebook that matches it. This keeps engagement high and gives students ownership over what we are doing.

How can I do the same in my classroom?

I won’t lie – creating these anchor charts will be a lot of work upfront. But if you know that you will be teaching the same grade level for years to come, it is totally worth the time. If you teach third, fourth, or fifth grade, I have created reading anchor charts and interactive notebook bundles for most standards. You can check them out by clicking here.

My bundles include these anchor charts in two sizes (8.5×11 or 24×32). I have also included instructions on how to print in different sizes if you want. Personally, I like to print the large charts and laminate them. Once they are laminated, I can use an expo marker to fill in the blanks with my students. At the end of the school year, I erase the charts and store them on a hanger in my school closet. I never have to print them again! #magical

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I hope you feel more confident about how to use anchor charts in your classroom to support your language learners. I can promise you that you will see so much gain from implementing these strategies. Don’t forget to check back to read all about the preview-review-model and how to implement it in every lesson.

See you next time!

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Hi, I'm Rebeca!

I help upper elementary dual language teachers with resources and ideas that promote bilingualism and biliteracy.  

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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