The Magical Art of Organizing Charts

As another school year begins, we are excited to return to our charting musings here at Chartchums. It was a busy year for both of us as we presented workshops and worked on multiple projects. Kristi published a book with Christine Hertz, A Mindset for Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth (Heinemann 2015) http://www.heinemann.com/products/E06288.aspx  that was just released this month (Yay!) and then partnered up with Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler to write a book on Play. You can look forward to that book sometime in the Spring. Marjorie wrote a book with Lucy Calkins and Christine Holley about Kindergarten reading called Becoming Avid Readers, which was part of the TCRWP Reading Units of Study series (Heinemann 2015) http://www.heinemann.com/products/E07693.aspx. Marjorie also oversaw all the charts for the K-5 reading books, illustrating quite a few of them.

When projects come to an end and before new ones begin, starting off with a fresh clean start helps one move forward. Whether you have taught for one year or twenty, the amount of paper and stuff accumulated can become mountainous. Inspired by the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (Ten Speed Press 2014) by Marie Kondo, who suggests discarding as the first rule of tidying, we thought about how we could apply this to charts so that we start off the year with a fresh and tidy start. Marie Kondo’s only rule about what to keep is to hold each item in your hands and to ask, “Does this spark joy?” For a teacher to be able to answer this question you need to also ask, “Can I use this again?” “Will this save me time?” “Will this engage my kids?”

Marjorie decided to try this out with her own collection of charts, which over the years had filled up several file folders, a few sketch books, and a couple of shopping bags. Kondo suggests gathering every item from the same category together in one place and literally pick up each item, holding it, and asking, “Does this spark joy?”

The idea of gathering everything together from a single category (in this case—charts) is eye-opening. Not only do you see the shear volume of stuff, but you realize how much stuff you had actually forgotten about, amount of stuff you haven’t used in ages. The example below shows a “bag-o-charts” that Marjorie admits she stowed away several years ago. There they were, rolled up, never touched since they were first created and used with children, forgotten.

Rolling up charts and putting them in a shopping bag is probably not the most useful storage method nor the best idea.

Rolling up charts and putting them in a shopping bag is probably not the most useful storage method nor the best idea.

Taking her next cue from Kondo, Marjorie unrolled one of the charts and asked, “Does this give me joy?” The answer was a definite “NO” as she looked at the wrinkled paper and the faded Post-it notes. Not only did it give no joy, it caused a little embarrassment that she had been holding on to it for all this time. Marie Kondo suggests we can deal with this feeling by thanking the item that has given joy or been helpful in the past before discarding it with a clean conscious. This actually works, so we suggest giving it a try.

Who knew even Post-it notes faded and discolored over time!

Who knew even Post-it notes faded and discolored over time!

Charts are meant to help make our lessons clear and for students to have tools at their ready to be independent problem solvers. Charts are often made or built with the kids using a combination of teacher-made parts and student-made parts. Interactive writing, photos, drawings, and computer-generated images can all be used. How to organize all these charts, especially for the charts that you know will be needed again and again is something to consider and plan for as your charting grows across the year. We have a few simple solutions that will help you organize your charts so they can be easily accessed by you and/or your students.

Many years ago our friend and colleague, Brooke Geller, shared with us her brilliant solution to the problem of not being able to lug around huge chart tablets as she traveled from school to school: a sketchbook! If you create charts using sticky notes or Post-it notes, an 11 x 14 inch sketchbook can be a great storage tool because it is big enough to store four 6 x 8 inch Post-its across two pages. It is also especially useful later on when you want to pull small groups who might need these charts as a refresher to strategies or processes they weren’t ready for when initially introduced.

Sketchbooks make charts portable and easily accessible.

Sketchbooks make charts portable and easily accessible.

Another storage tool is the ever-useful binder. Binders can house photos of charts that are used with certain units of study or the actual charts themselves placed in sheet protectors if you use the Post-it note-like charts. One of the advantages of binders is they can be stored vertically which makes them easy to store and access. As a side note: Marie Kondo discourages piling and prefers vertical storage as it makes items more accessible and visible.

Binders can be created and organized by unit, topic, or skill.

Binders can be created and organized by unit, topic, or skill.

Be conscious of clutter as your year begins, discard what is not needed or no longer “sparks joy” and plan for how to organize all the tools you and your students will be creating this year. Also, let us know what other ideas have worked for you by sharing here on the Chartchums blog or on Facebook.

As always, Happy Charting!

Marjorie & Kristi


11 Comments on “The Magical Art of Organizing Charts”

  1. drfishstix@aol.com says:

    Thank you but, I retired from teaching after 34 years. Please unsubscribe me from your list. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed them all.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Dianne West says:

    At dodgelearning.com, you can purchase large, almost-poster sized binders (as well as paper for them). I own two, and I use one to house enlarged pictures of our anchor charts that are no longer on display (we have a machine that enlarges documents). I also keep them in a Smartboard file that any of us can access at any time. I use the other notebook to house class generated wordlists and Wordles we have created using synonyms. The notebooks can be viewed at: http://dodgelearning.com/c-a-b-b-binders/

  3. This post is marvelous! The sketchbook idea is brilliant! I need to try that.

  4. Irene Zajac says:

    Love this post. I usually tell teachers to take pictures of their charts, organize them on a sheet or sheets of paper and print. This way they can keep them with their units of study.
    Love the sketch book idea.

  5. Liz Shenton says:

    Something the teachers at our school started doing last year was hanging our anchor charts on a magnetic towel rack that attaches to our whiteboards. We punch holes in the chart paper and attach sentence strips on the back so they don’t stick together and hang them with large binder rings. This way we can flip them over and refer back to them as needed. I have three-one for Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop and Math. I can hang about 12 charts or so before they get too heavy and then I take a photo and place them in a binder so students can refer to them when they need a reminder. I purchased them at Bed, Bath & Beyond for about $12 using their 20% off coupon. It’s been a great way to hang my anchor charts!

  6. […] Click through to read "The Magical Art of Organizing Charts" […]

  7. Shalin says:

    Organizational charts are truly helpful in many ways, when creating organization charts using a tool , it will be easier to have some good organizational chart templates to get started!


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