One of the things I have learned in American schools is that walls are for display. Classrooms are colorful, decoration hangs from the ceilings, the walls are full of posters, everywhere you look you will see pieces of information. According to one of the teachers I met a while ago, the point is, “even if the student’s mind is wandering during the class, his/her eyes will land on some piece of instructional information.” I confess that it was overwhelming for me in the beginning exactly because everywhere I looked I saw anchor charts, and I couldn’t help it but read every single word on all those posters. If you have read my profile, you know that I come from a different educational setting in another country. The amount of wall decor was something new to me in my first years in American schools.
It was hard for me to concentrate and observe a class with all those colors and words covering the walls, and here I would like to open a large parenthesis on what I am telling you. If you are not teaching in the U.S. and have not had a teaching or learning experience in an American school, search images for “classroom decor” or “anchor charts” on Google to see what I am talking about. Although I made posters with my language learners in Brazil, they were nothing to be compared to a number of anchor charts I see in K-12 schools here.
If you are a teacher in an American school with English language learners (ELLs) in your classroom who have just arrived from another country (I am not talking about the U.S.-born students who have been here for as long as they can remember), consider the overwhelmingly amount of information on your walls and think of how to help your student filter what is really relevant for the moment.
With time, I have learned to filter, and so do the students. Posters on the walls (as well as all the decorations) should aim at something that has been or will be taught. This way, when the learners look at it, they will recall that other lesson (or so it should be).
The lower the grade, the more decorations and posters there are. In kindergarten, for instance, some classrooms are large and divided into stations – the Math station, the Science station, the reading nook, the computers’ desk. The desks are for group or independent work, while rugs on the floor set the stage for teacher input sessions. Each area has appropriate posters to remind students of behavior expectations, learning strategies, and instructional concepts.
While I worked as a student-teacher or a Bilingual/ESL teacher in American elementary schools, I had the chance to design some anchor charts for my own classes. See some of their pictures below. Of course, they were inspired by other posters I saw on Pinterest and on Google. Those websites will overflow with creative ideas.
Let me know what you think of those posters. I would love to discuss and help you create your own. Also, let me know if you have questions about the use of anchor charts in American schools.