My district uses the Teacher’s College Units of Study for both Reading and Writing.  While I’ve worked as a coach for these units for the past three years, I’ve never actually taught them day to day (I used the old Writing Units in kindergarten, but I digress…).  So teaching first grade and working with the units daily is actually new to me.  Let me get this right out of the way – teaching the units every single day is not easy.

The units are dense (I’ve heard this before), I’ve found ways to cull each session for the important parts (thank you, Mike Ochs), but what is so hard is that in addition to teaching the units, I’m also teaching a Math program new to me… I’m also dealing with parent emails… I’m also dealing with Guidance and Social Work and Speech and Special Ed and OT and you name it… oh and I’m also managing a group of kids… and trying to teach them social skills… it’s a LOT.

I also try my hardest to do what I know is best for kids.  The Units come with pretty, fancy, preprinted Post-Its with strategies for the anchor charts.  You can even print these off to make it easier!  I know many teachers love these and being able to slap the note on and/or print it saves time and makes life simpler.  I have also coached many a teacher (you know who you are…) to try and get some kids hands on those strategies before putting them up.  To all of you, let me say – I FEEL YOUR PAIN.

Getting kids to help with the anchor charts is ideal for a myriad of reasons (they learn the strategies by writing them, they ‘own’ the chart more if they helped make it, etc.), but actually finding the time and space to do this is not easy.  If it were up to me, I’d do nothing but read books and interactive writing all day long.  Alas, it is not up to me.  Interactive writing is important and meaningful, but it can also be time consuming.  For my current unit (Nonfiction book clubs – which they LOVE by the way), I stumbled upon a quick way to get this done.

I printed each strategy for the anchor chart in a small size.  My original intention was to slap these babies on a chart and be done with it.  But then I realized, these small strategy papers could also serve as ‘mentor texts’ for my students to create their own.

Each book club picked a strategy to create and then after writing the words, used the picture on the printed version to inspire their own version, using the nonfiction topic their club was studying.  The kids loved it and the chart has been super helpful and used a lot in only the few days since its inception.

It only took us about fifteen minutes total to create the entire chart.  The clubs worked together for about twelve minutes and then we gathered together to put it all together.  Do you use anchor charts?  What are some ways you get students work on the charts?

The content and pictures for each strategy are specific to each clubs’ nonfiction topic.