Revising Charts for Clarity and PurposePosted: October 7, 2012
As a follow up to last week’s post, Clarity is Key, we would like to show you how a couple of teachers from Van Buren, Arkansas have tried to make their charts clear and easy to use by revising, pruning, and clustering. Charts no longer need to be seen as static, permanent or precious. Instead of being static, charts should be dynamic, changing to match the needs of students. Instead of being permanent, they should only be up when working helping kids do what we have taught. Finally, we as teachers can’t become too emotionally tied to the charts either because of the adorable student photos illustrating them or because of the extensive time and effort put into their creation.
At King Elementary School in Van Buren the first grade is currently in the middle of a mentor author unit of study. They are studying Tomie DePaola and have made many discoveries as to what he does as a writer to make his stories so enticing and memorable. April Evans and her first graders came up with many noticings which she added to a chart along with examples from Tomie DePaola’s books.
But when she looked at her students’ writing she wasn’t seeing many of these craft moves being used. Looking back over the chart she had so carefully put together, she realized that there were so many things on the chart that it was impossible to teach any one of them well. So she chose a few craft moves to teach that would most benefit her students and began a new chart. When she saw a few children trying out the strategies she added examples from their writing to the chart. The arrows highlight the child and the craft move he or she used.
Once she had taught these strategies, instead of continuing to teach new things, she used the chart to remind children of what they had learned and encouraged them to revise all the books they had already written by trying out these craft moves. This got children to practice not just once, but lots of times. The chart also provided concrete ways partners could talk to each other about their writing. For example, a partner could use the chart to give a specific suggestion like, “Have you thought about adding dialogue here?” Or, “This might be a good place to add ellipses.” Ms. Evans saw an immediate increase in the amount of craft being used in her students’ writing which also increased the volume as well. The children were excited by how quickly they were seeing their writing grow and blossom.
At Van Buren’s City Heights Elementary School, first grade teacher Tammy Marr has been working on organizing her charts by topic and placing them in the classroom where they make the most sense. For example, her reading charts hang just above the classroom library where she can remind children to reread them as they are shopping for books.
Ms. Marr has also placed her math charts next to the math materials. She starts each math lesson with a shared reading of the charts so they continue to remain fresh and current in her children’s minds. She tries to keep them simple, using clear pictures to go with each phrase or sentence, and also leaves plenty of white space around each idea so they are not cluttered with information. This makes the charts easier to navigate and use.
Many thanks to all the teachers at King and City Heights Elementary Schools for being such enthusiastic and adventuresome teachers as they continue to reflect and revise their teaching and their charts.
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz