We love being part of a digital age that allows us to connect with teachers across the world via Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Besides the many notes of support and thanks sent our way, we also receive lots of questions sent by teachers who are constantly exploring ways to improve their practice in order to help their students become more knowledgeable and independent each and every day. This week’s blog attempts to answer some of these questions in the hope that these could be useful to most teachers out there in the world. Our thanks to all of your for your continued passion and commitment to what matters most – our students!
“Trying to address all areas requested by admin…learning targets, essential questions, look fors???? Help!!!!”
It can be hard to balance the many demands placed on us as teachers. When it comes to charts, we have one clear answer: charts are for students first and foremost and be wary to clutter them with things children do not need. Something like an essential question can be posted in the same area as the charts. If it is an over-arching central question, then it can go on its own small paper using shared or interactive writing to compose it. Essential questions are what our teaching (and our charts) strive to help children answer, so having that posted and clear is helpful.
As for learning targets, those goals are often what inspire the headings on any one chart. If you have a learning target to help students write with sight words, spaces, and most sounds represented by a letter, then the chart heading will address that target: “I can write in an easy to read way!” and the bullets underneath address the specific ways to do that. You can always go to your administrator to show the ways you are co-constructing meaning and purpose with your students on your charts! If your administrator wants it written in fancy teacher language, you can always post a small sign outside your doorway which conveys this information to the adults entering the room. This will help clarify the difference between communications helpful to adults and communications helpful to children.
The chart below makes it very clear the focus being studied in this class. Using the title of a current unit of study is one way to satisfy an area that is often a “look for” when administrators visit a classroom.
How do I order the e-book version of Smarter Charts?
It can be ordered directly from Heinemann.com. To get it on an iPad you just have to download “Bluefire Reader” a free app.
Two questions from the Chartchums blog:
“I’d love to see a post on charting in the older grades. Many of our intermediate teachers struggle with this. Love your book…blog…everything!”
“Hi! I love the charts and I wanted to purchase your book. We transitioned to Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop this year. I teach 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies and I wanted to purchase your book but I saw it’s for K-2. Is it still beneficial for 6th grade? If not, is there something that you can recommend I purchase. I love making charts, but I want to make sure that they are effective and I would love some guidance. Thank you!”
If there is one thing we have learned since the publication of Smarter Charts, it is that the principals of good charting hold true regardless of the grade or the age of the students. This is because the principals are based not only on educational pedagogy, but on brain science, design theory, and advertising results; all having the overarching goal that information be presented efficiently and effectively in order to see results. The result we are all after is that what we are teaching (or selling) is remembered and used long after it has been taught (or sold).
What this means on a very basic level is that the effectiveness of a chart is directly related to its accessibility and its impact or use by the learner. What we sometimes see on charts as we travel up the grades is an increase of print and a decrease of visuals. There is very little research that supports this trend. All learning is aided by visuals. John Medina (Brain Rules, 2008) did studies where he gave adults a written text and found that 72 hours later they recalled 10% of the information, but when he added visuals participants recalled 65% after 72 hours.
Below is a middle school chart created to support writing from an upcoming Middle School units of study book (Calkins, Ehrenworth, Minor, 2014). The visuals were carefully considered and only added to make the text more memorable. They were not added as mere decoration or to make the chart look pretty. The visuals incorporated were added to trigger students’ memory of the steps or the strategies they could draw upon if stuck or if they forgot what to do, efficiently and effectively. With use these strategies will become internalized and the chart will no longer be needed.
From the Chartchums blog:
I am interested in having my students participate more in the chart making. Right now they do a lot of suggesting in terms of content, illustrations, etc. But I think having their handwriting will make it more authentic and engaging. Suggestions/advice?
One idea is to create the chart through interactive writing where kids share the pen with you. This works well when you want the children to participate in the composition of the chart, have the kids’ hands show, but also want the conventions correct because the chart will be hanging up in the room as a model. You can also ask kids to make drawings to add to the chart or include copies of their work. This also contributes to students feeling empowered and known as those who can and do. Kids are drawn to emulate their classmates and quickly get the message that the classroom is full of teachers and models we can learn from. The chart below was written with students in Kristi’s classroom using interactive writing to highlight one student’s strategy for writing. Not only does the chart involve the students, but it makes a student famous by naming the strategy after him.
How can we arrange for you to come to our school/district to present a PD day on charting?
We are available for full day author visits. You can contact Kathy Neville at Kathy@readingandwritingproject.com for pricing and availability.
We hope these questions and answers help provide some direction and spark further ideas as to the many ways we can use charts to help our students learn what we are teaching, help themselves help themselves, and provide guidelines that will aid in developing realistic goals. Keep your questions coming and share your charting insights and solutions as well, so we can share again in the future.
Marjorie and Kristi
This past week The Big Fresh Newsletter, a free resource for teachers from Choice Literacy, posted a podcast discussion that we (Kristi and Marjorie) had about charts with Franki Sibberson (amazing author, librarian, and lead contributer at Choice Literacy) http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=1847 . Obviously charts are one of our favorite things to talk about, but as we talked we realized that many of the things we discussed have examples that can be found in previous posts on Chartchums. So, first listen to the podcast (if you want a bit of fun you can tally how often Kristi says, “you know?” and Marjorie says “right?”). Then you can come back to this page and see some examples of the charts, tools, and technology that we talk about with Franki.
Charts and Technology:
Technologically Speaking https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/technologically-speaking/
Keeping Charts Close https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/keeping-charts-close/
Keeping Charts Close: Part II https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/keeping-charts-close-part-2/
Planning with charts: What came first, the chart or the teaching? https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/planning-with-charts-what-came-first-the-chart-or-the-teaching/
Stamina, Seminars, and Making Teaching Stick:
A New Year, A New Start https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/a-new-year-a-new-start/
Favorite Tools of the Trade:
Tools of the [Chart] Trade https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/tools-of-the-chart-trade/
Shopping the Specials https://chartchums.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/shopping-the-specials/
While we have shared many charting ideas and experiences with you, charting is as ever changing as our teaching because we work with children who continually challenge and inspire us to take what we know to new and higher levels. Our next post will be dedicated to answering your questions, so send us the challenges, the concerns, the ongoing questions you have about making and using charts in your classroom – no matter the subject – and we will think together with you in our ongoing search for finding answers to how best we can support our students needs and our instructional goals both. We look forward to hearing from all of you!
Marjorie & Kristi
Hi there! Greetings from the snowy, ice covered reaches of New York! We hope today’s post finds you ensconced in covers and drinking the hot beverage of your choice if you are in one of the colder areas of the world. And if you are in Hawaii, well, don’t tell us if you are in Hawaii.
We chartchums have been busy writing, writing, writing and are happy to report that Smarter Charts 2 is now in the hands of the supremely dedicated and talented folks at Heinemann. We will keep you posted on its progression, and have one small teaser to unleash now… it is even better than the first book. Our brains have grown, our community has grown, and it has resulted in something we are both incredibly proud of.
Now onto the short term! January is a time of resolutions, new beginnings, and the reversal of clutter. As Kristi sets forth on launching a new writing unit, she is going to take you on a tour of her streamlined planning/charting process. Pack your bags folks, because here we go:
First things first, look honestly at what your students have learned, not what you have taught
On-demands are one of our favorite ways to launch units. Though the results may not be pretty, they are honest, and you can only get to your destination if you know where you are…
Kristi launched her kindergarten story on-demand with the following language: Today you guys have a pretty exciting job ahead of you! You are going to fill up the pages of your 5 page book with a story of something that happened to you! We have read a lot of stories so you know how they usually start and some of the things they have in them – like talking and feelings. When you have a story idea in your mind, go and grab a special yellow* book from the writing center!”
* Kristi learned this trick from a literacy coach, if you make the on-demand book a different color it is easier to find it. She chooses a different on-demand book color for each unit.
Then, Kristi sat down with the on-demands and her end of unit checklist. The headings at the top are strongly influenced by her work with the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop Narrative Writing Continuum and the Common Core State Standards. She will be teaching story multiple times throughout the year, so these are not the ONLY things she is teaching in narrative writing this year.
A few notes:
- the first column indicates on how many pages out of the 5 children were able to hold onto the same story
- the stretching column indicates what sounds children are representing (Beginning, Middle, End)
- the final column gives a rough estimate on when children stopped working
After looking at the work, Kristi came up with 4 main goals (in no particular order):
- Build stamina to 30 minutes
- Develop more elaborated drawings
- Develop more elaborated writing
- Increase the clarity and readability of the writing
There are some obvious small groups that pop up: children who need more work with stretching a story across pages or sequencing, coming up with topics, or children who had less than the average amount of stamina.
Now that you know where you are, plan to move onward!
At this point, Kristi grabbed four pieces of white printer paper and wrote the goals across the top (one goal per page). Kristi usually plans for 1-2 weeks of focus around each goal, but will probably only teach 3 or 4 things within that time to support the goal. This allows time for children to learn the new thing, practice and reflect on it.
Below is the planning page for goal 1: Stamina On the left hand side there is space to generate teaching points, on the right hand side is a mock up of what the chart will probably look like. At the top of the chart there will be a stair of increasing minutes to record the growth in stamina. Underneath is the likely heading for the strategies to support increasing stamina. One can not just write longer by sheer force of will, it helps to have some techniques to help you stay at something.
These are the strategies Kristi will likely teach, though she has since added: be optimistic, say, “I can do it” and add to your words. These are culled from a variety of sources: Teachers College Reading and Writing Project curricula, the second bullet comes from our resident occupational therapist, the newly added “be optimistic” comes from some of Kristi’s professional reading on growth mindset and grit. These are written in shorthand and will be mulled over to find the perfect language and the perfect method of delivery, this is the broad strokes of instruction. Next she translates her short hand into a further developed chart sketch.
Note the reduction of language, the selection of a consistent visual, and the decision to use two colors to help children see what the strategy may look like in their own work. Next to the second bullet, stretch, Kristi has made a plan for the two photographs she needs to take. Two children that regularly receive additional OT services will serve as the models, mentors, and instructors for that lesson. Much of this sketch is just that, a sketch, much like when baking soda meets vinegar and the substance changes, when chart ideal meets child there must be room made for their influence. Some of this may be made during interactive writing, the work on the right hand side will be selected from students, and the strategies may change based on their accessibility and success. Kristi always, always, always leaves room for the innovation of her class.
Let’s see it again, shall we?
The second goal is elaborated drawings. Again, Kristi went to the white paper and thought about a variety of sources: mentor texts for illustration, Katie Wood Ray’s professional text In Pictures and In Words, resources from the art teacher, etc.
On the left hand side, Kristi has written some language she intends to teach the children, e.g. for drawing characters asking, “Who else was there?” Additionally, Kristi has decided to make this chart an annotated exemplar, meaning that she will use a mentor text, a piece of children’s work, or her own illustration and mark it up for the specifics that make it a successful elaborated illustration. As a stand in, Kristi has decided to sketch her own picture:
Kristi chose an annotated exemplar as the way to display this, as opposed to a list of strategies as the stamina chart will be, because she wants the children to see the big picture (no pun intended) of illustration. It is as much the way the parts work together, as the parts themselves, that make such impactful pages in picture books. Kristi will likely blow up both a piece of student work and a page from a Marla Frazee book to serve as mentors for the class.
Kristi went through the same process for her remaining two goals, making both a list of possible teaching points and a possible chart for each goal. With all planning, one must be prepared for detours, delays, shortcuts, and running out of gas. Though she is planned, the plans are not poured in cement.
The key to planning, in Kristi’s mind, is clarity of mission. If she can tease out 3 or 4 big goals, she likely has her charts. She often asks herself: what is reasonable in the amount of time allotted in this unit? She gives herself time to revisit teaching with her students, and tries to remember what really matters in writing: active problem solving, clear communication, joy, and ownership.
As far as the charts, the key is remembering they are billboards or fliers for your teaching, they are not the teaching. Door to door salesman leave pamphlets, companies run commercials and print ads, people take notes from a workshop. The charts need to jog your students memories, not create them, so making them with your children is key. Less is almost always more, and pictures are worth a thousand words.
We hope this helps to keep your new year clutter free, and as always, we look forward to hearing your comments!
Kristi and Marjorie
For the past two months we here at Chartchums have been traveling the world, from Gothenburg, Sweden (where Marjorie presented at a TCRWP Reading Institute), to Hartford, CT (author visits by Kristi and Marjorie), Boston, MA at the NCTE Convention (workshops and book signings) and back to our own backyard, Brooklyn, NY. This week we want to share some of our adventures with you by highlighting some of the charting done in Gothenburg and Brooklyn.
“Hej, Hej” (pronounced Hey, Hey) is Swedish for “Hello.” As Marjorie spent a week working with teachers and coaches in Sweden what quickly became apparent was how universally caring and hardworking teachers are across the world and children are children no matter where you are located. One area the teachers wanted help with was not only how to get partnerships up and going, but to make them more productive and purposeful. We brainstormed some ideas and used charts to help clarify our thinking and instruction. The goal was to find ways to engage children in the process of partnerships that would lead to successful reading and talking. We worked on drawing pictures, which lead to some drawing lessons like those seen here in past posts Let’s Talk About How to Draw and Let’s Talk More About Drawing. Visuals are truly universal! Then we talked about using language that is clear and catchy. Repetition and rhyme works in advertising and teaching both because these help get things stuck in our heads.
Here are some examples of the reading partnership charts the teachers and coaches planned out to use with their K-3 students. Thanks to Edit, Helena, and Charlotte for contributing their skills and actually making the charts. And while you may not be fluent in Swedish, you will be able to figure out what each chart is teaching by looking at the pictures and by recognizing a few of the English/Swedish cognates we share. Charts, like people, have lots in common. Have fun!
[Here are a few translations in case you want to check your understandings:]
The first chart provides a menu of options for readers to choose from, such as read together as one voice, play teacher, seesaw, act it out, sing it, act it out, or I read, you slide. The second chart reminds partners of some things they can talk about, like the characters, the problems, or the lessons in a story. The last chart prompts partners to ask each other, “Can you say more?” For example: Why is that important? What does that make you wonder? Show me an example.
Back in Brooklyn some Kindergarten teachers at PS 192 were planning ways to get their young students ready for a unit on beginning reading behaviors. The TCRWP refers to these as “Super Powers” and it leads to lots of metaphoric fun. Besides borrowing some super hero costumes from their own children, Lynette and Alison created charts to provide visual reminders of what they were teaching. They used a combination of photos and icons to underscore their words and keep their kids’ attention. It really worked. There was not a single disengaged kinder to be found.
So across the world charts are being used to help teachers plan and children learn.
“Hej Da!” (hey doe) or “Goodbye” for now and of course, Happy Charting!
Marjorie and Kristi
As the deadline nears for our next book (working title: Smarter Charts, Too!) we find ourselves a little strapped for time! This does not mean we are not going to continue to bring you great resources for your classroom, but rather it may occasionally be in different forms. Here are some of the options for keeping up with the latest thinking in charts and tools for independent readers and writers:
Come See Us!
We (Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli) will be featured speakers at the Literacy for All Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. If you will be in attendance, you can see us on November 4th and 5th. On Monday we will present a workshop titled “Visible Learning: Charts in Action” (which will be repeated on Tuesday) and then on Tuesday a workshop titled “Beyond the Basics: Optimizing Classroom Charts for Independence.” We hope to see you there!
We will also be presenting at the NCTE Conference on November 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, with Maria Paula Ghiso and Patricia Martinez-Alvarez. Our workshop title is “Writing Workshop Is for All Students: Using Visuals, Oral Language, and Digital Tools to Maximize Success and Independence for English Language Learners.” If you have never had the chance to attend a NCTE Conference, it is definitely worth investigating!
We will also be signing copies of Smarter Charts at both conferences.
Tweet With Us
Chartchums’ twitter account (@chartchums) has been busily tweeting away. We are in the middle of our Fall project: chart-a-day, in which we tweet or retweet particularly powerful classroom charts. Here is a little taste of what we have tweeted thus far:
Growing charts across days!
We are 20 days in, which means 20 days of great classroom charts that can help you think (and rethink) about your classroom walls and resources. We hope you will join us on twitter and tweet your powerful charts at us, so we can share them with the world!
Now, back to our manuscript!
Kristi and Marjorie
In many writing classrooms the year starts off with children sharing personal memories and writing stories and teachers modeling how to find stories if stuck, how to tell a story sequentially, and how to elaborate a story using step by step actions and descriptive details. There are a few key charts you may want to consider making with your students to support this ambitious work – a writing process chart, a strategy chart, an exemplar chart, and a conventions chart.
Helping children understand that writing is a process is important work, especially at the beginning of the year. Donald Murray, author of A Writer Teaches Writing (1968, 2004), first described this process as a way of breaking down writing into understandable steps, to show how writing is made so he could teach others. Writers collect ideas, draft, revise, and edit. While there are many variations of the writing process this is a good basic one to teach our young writers. It lets them know that writing is not perfect the first time pictures and words are put down on paper, that it takes lots of starts and stops, trials and errors, before it ends up published. We typically show the writing process as a circle to emphasize its endlessness, although we know that that there are many times writers jump around for example from revising to editing, then back to more revising. The most important thing we want our student writers to know is that when a writer finishes one piece the cycle starts all over again. Below is a chart that Kristi made that continues to be a favorite of many teachers.
Another chart you will definitely need is a strategy chart, or what we now refer to as a repertoire chart. As we described in Smarter Charts, this kind of chart records a list of strategies for a big skill, which allows children to self-select the strategy that matches what they need to do. It also typically grows over multiple lessons. Increasing children’s skill of elaboration is one goal that encourages revision.
Setting clear expectations for what a well-written story looks and sounds like is best accomplished by showing children examples of books written by other children their same age. Then, by looking at the exemplar piece of writing together and naming what the writer has done to make it so good, can really underscore all that you have been teaching and even provide ideas for other things to teach and for students to learn. Once the piece of writing is annotated it becomes an exemplar chart that children can compare their own writing to or refer to when looking for other things they could try.
Editing is an important part of the writing process because writing is meant to be read by others. This means that writers work hard to make their writing easier to read by trying to make their pictures clear with enough details to show what is happening and where. They also write in a way that makes the words easier to read, like using spaces, punctuation, and the best spelling they know how to do. Creating a chart that highlights strategies for these types of conventions will be a useful tool for all your students. This is the type of chart that is often turned into an editing checklist to be used regardless of genre.
When deciding which charts you will need it always helps to start with the big goals of your unit and to use these as your guide for selecting which charts might be needed most. Too many charts can be overwhelming and become more like print pollution than helpful scaffolds. And, as with any chart, make sure you and your students refer to each chart often, celebrating their use by all.
Marjorie & Kristi
Hello Dear Readers,
We here at chartchums are developing more consistent features to our blog. To support the requests of all of you we will be approaching each month in the following way:
- one post addressing a popular reading or writing unit
- one post that highlights relevant work from our archives
- one post that addresses readers questions
- and one post that looks at charts in a classroom setting
This week we are tackling some of the most popular reader questions of the past two weeks, which we have collected from comments, @chartchums, and email@example.com. Here are some answers to those wonderful questions…
Can Kristi share her chart font?
As much as Kristi would love to, the whole idea of the chart font is that it match the pictures you put on your own charts, otherwise it becomes another form of clip art. If you are intimidated by drawing your own chart font, we suggest taking a look at our previous posts about drawing, found here and here or by looking at Make a World by Ed Emberley. Another idea Kristi tried was to have the students make some of the symbols.
Do you do seminars?
We do! We have presented from Texas to Connecticut and many states in between! If you are interested in having us work with you, please direct inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is sample of what you can expect when you get a day with the chartchums:
Want the secret to jump-off-the-wall charts that stick with kids? Then you’ll want to meet Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli, co-authors of Smarter Charts, who will share not only ways to create great charts, but the best practices that will make your charts more powerful and effective than ever. In this one-day workshop Kristi and/or Marjorie will share tips on design and language, instructional use, and self-assessment. You will learn strategies that deepen engagement, strengthen retention, and increase independence—all by involving students in chart making. And you will even learn how to draw!
I am swimming in charts! How many charts should I have up?
At this time of year there are so many charts for routines, it can feel like you are going to use an entire chart pad by the time the month is over. One suggestion to minimize the “print pollution” is to take your routines charts and bind them together with a simple binder ring. Another is to use a sketch pad for these routine charts. Both these strategies allow you to flip to the chart you need at the time you need it. Unlike a “Stretching Words” chart that children may use across the day, a “Setting up For Writing Time” only needs to be seen in that brief window of set-up time. On average, most classrooms have 3 or so charts up for each major subject area.
What is “chart-a-day”?
Chart-a-day is an initiative we have started on twitter (@chartchums) to tweet one smart chart every school day. Send us one of yours and we will retweet it to the world!
Feel free to send us your questions, we will answer them again next month! Until then, happy charting!
Kristi and Marjorie