If you were to open my classroom closet a few years ago, you’d find a collection of laminated anchor charts for writing, adorned with velcro and laminated Post-it notes which I’d simply stick on while teaching. Having all of my charts ready to use, year after year, felt like a big time-saver.
There were several problems, however, with this system:
- Charts were made for writers, in general, not my writers, uniquely. Each year, I found, kids needed different kinds of charts, different strategies on each chart, but the laminated Post-its made the charts inflexible.
- I relied heavily on pre-made charts, so I didn’t know how to make my own.
- Kids were not engaging with the charts, which felt more like wallpaper than a tool.
I realized that I was the one doing all of the thinking work that went into constructing charts. Kids weren’t actively involved in making them, so they weren’t actively using them.
Letting go of my laminated charts meant letting go of some control, letting go of perfection. It meant persisting through the uncomfortable — drawing and writing in front of kids, not always having a model chart.
But, as with many risks, there were rewards. As we began co-constructing charts, we began co-constructing learning. Students, rather than the curriculum, became the heart of instruction. I spent longer studying student work and observing writers in action than I spent studying lessons and preparing tools. As we began spotlighting and involving kids from our class in each component of writing workshop, engagement and investment in learning soared.