Transparency is a key component of a learner-centered classroom. Being completely clear and open about what students are learning, what they have to do to show they have learned it, and where they are in their learning gives them the map and builds the capacity to direct their own learning.
What do all of these student products have in common?
- A children’s book page showing an animal cell, with labels and simple explanations of how the major organelles work.
- A Prezi showing an animal cell. The presentation zooms in on different parts of the cell with a narrator explaining their functions
- A pop song about the animal cell. Each verse focuses on a different organelle.
- A multi-paragraph essay describing the key parts of an animal cell
- A hand-sewn felt animal cell doll with all the major parts labeled and a display box with descriptions each major part.
A major goal of learner-centered proficiency based learning is to foster independence in our students. An excellent classroom tool for supporting this work is an anchor chart. Anchor charts are posters that make processes, cues, strategies, and guidelines visible to students. As students are internalizing and learning these, the chart serves as the reference text. Many people already use flow-charts and s.o.p.s in their rooms. Some people have reading and writing charts up. Other people have group work charts, and problem solving charts. All of these fall under the broader category of anchor charts.
Like anything, some anchor charts are stronger than others. Here are some basic tips for creating and using quality charts in your classroom:
When To Make A Chart
How To Use Charts In The Classroom
How To Make A Quality Chart
Before you run off with this idea, a bit of a warning: beware of pinterest! Remember that the point of an achor chart is to support self-regulation and independence in your learners. How pretty or perfect a chart is does not matter! Use the anchor chart examples you find as inspiration. I’ve started a board on pinterest of examples of great charts for various grades and contents to help!
By now the school year feels under way. The chaos of the first week has subsided. Classes are settling into routines. Units and projects are underway. Our excitement and expectations for the new year, and our students, is still there.
It is these expectations, the ones we as teachers hold up, that have the most power for our students’ learning. This piece from NPR explores the research behind teacher expectations and student achievement, and also offers some ideas for recognizing and adjusting our expectations.
In the book Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning Peter Johnston talks about how the way we speak to our students conveys our expectations. He argues that our language is the central tool for the social, emotional, and academic development of our students. Here are three of my favorite suggestions for how we intentionally use language with our students so that we can create the intellectual life we want them to grow into:
Notice and Name: Be explicit about the praise you give. Say who you saw doing something you want to praise, then say what it is they did.
Become Strategic: We want to foster problem solving and creative thinking. One way to do this is to give students the opportunity to explain their thinking and processing in group settings. Ask students questions that prompt strategic thinking whenever the chance arises.
Courtney is the Instructional Coach for KIDS RSU #2 in Maine. She also hosts a podcast about personalized learning, and is available for independent consulting work.
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