Before I taught in an elementary science lab, I taught special education and second grade. I used anchor charts in both of these settings. Naturally, I would use this beneficial tool in my science/STEAM lab. Science concepts can be particularly difficult and complex, so having anchor charts is particularly useful.
What is an Anchor Chart?
An anchor chart is a chart or poster that supports student learning. Although you can buy premade charts, the ones with the most value are those created with your students. This type of chart is like an anchor. It holds the students’ learning in place.
What are the Benefits of Using Anchor Charts?
Anchor Charts Get Students Actively Engaged
Using anchor charts is one of my favorite strategies because creating a chart is interactive. It gets students actively participating in the lesson.
One of my favorite charts to start a new science topic with is a KLEWS chart. It is like a KWL (What I know, what I want to know about, what I learned), except it is specifically made for science. You can see that it is similar to a KWL, but students need to look for evidence, and there is a spot devoted to science vocabulary. This is a chart that you can download to use with your students. We do have a larger more colorful KLEWS chart that you can post in your classroom.
At the beginning of a unit, students brainstorm about what they know. Students write questions they have under the W or “what we wonder section.” This brainstorming can be done with the whole class, in a small group, or with a partner. If done in a small group or with a partner information can be shared with the class and put on a larger chart.
Students can also use this KLEWS worksheet as a simple note-taking form.
As students learn about a topic, a good way to wrap up each daily activity is to add to the L “what we learned,” E “what evidence do we have,” and S “science vocabulary” sections.
You don’t have to use a KLEWS chart for every topic. If you did, students might get bored with it. You can create charts or posters for almost any science topic. For example, if you are teaching about planets, students can share what they know. The class will most likely know the names of the planets. You can create a poster for each one by writing the planet’s name at the top. As students learn about a planet, someone can draw a picture of the planet and write about it underneath.
Once students have contributed to a chart, they have a vested interest in learning about the topic.
These Charts Make Student Learning and Thinking Visible
As a teacher, you can look over an anchor chart and see what the students have learned because their thinking is visible. You also see what students still need to learn. Because of this, you can provide the right experiences and materials to help guide your students.
Anchor Charts Improve Students’ Understanding of Concepts
Because anchor charts stay up during a unit (and sometimes beyond), the charts of referred to over and over again. This is especially true if students have difficulty understanding a topic or are visual learners. Think about how this will help your English Language Learners and your students who have short attention spans.
Anchor Charts Can Be Used for Review
Anchor charts of all types can be used as a review before a test.
Sometimes it is a good idea to review a certain concept before going on a new topic. For example, if your class is going to learn about the conservation of matter, reviewing posters on the states of matter is good.
You Have Classroom with Rich Decor!
Anchor charts make for colorful, print-rich classroom decor! This is perfect for a science lab or the science area in your room.
Ideas for Science Anchor Charts
Because I taught in a K-4 science/STEAM lab, I devoted each of my walls to a specific type of chart. The front wall was devoted to procedures and processes, such as rules for the lab, voice level expectations, and the steps in the scientific method. One wall was devoted to life science, another to earth science, and the last one to physical science. This made it easy for older students to refer back to charts that younger grades had created before going onto a related but more complex topic.
If you are teaching the same topic to multiple classes, you might want to use Post-It notes on the chart. You can remove the notes before using the chart with the next class. Using an erasable pen also works. Take a quick photo of it before you erase the ideas. Show each class the other classes’ ideas if it helps. For example, “That’s what the other class thought too.”
While you don’t want to make the whole anchor chart ahead of time, you do want to have an idea of what you want on the chart. Then you can guide the students to come up with the ideas whether it be through questioning, experimentation, research, etc.
That being said, we have many anchor charts in our Teachers Pay Teachers shop. Use our posters as inspiration/guidelines for making your own posters. Or, use them for review as you move onto a new topic. After all, you have already led them to find all or almost all the information on these science topics.
Find some inspiration here.
And remember, it’s all science!