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The Art and Science of Chart Making + A Giveaway

From Smarter Charts: Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz. Copyright © 2012 by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz. Published by Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH. All rights reserved.

I started thinking deeply about the significance of classroom charts once I spent a week with Kristi Mraz who led a section, “Toolkits, Charts and other Resources That Support Writers in Revision and Writerly Craft,” at the writing institute back in 2011.  Kristi, along with her TCRWP colleague Marjorie Martinelli, started a blog in 2011 called Chartchums, which provides examples of creative and effective classroom charts for teachers.

I’ve come to believe that classroom chart making is both an art and a science since charts must look good in order to appeal to children’s senses.  Once they look good, they have to convey the right information in just the right way in order to be used as a teaching tool children can and will access throughout a unit of study.

Kristi Mraz is now a Kindergarten teacher at P.S. 59 in Manhattan (A school that’s close to my heart since I did a lot of my fieldwork and my primary grade student teaching there!) and Marjorie is a staff developer at the Reading and Writing Project.  They recently wrote Smarter Charts: Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers (Heinemann, 2012).  Their book is a treasure trove of fantastic information about creating better charts that will help your students increase their working memory of skills and strategies for reading and writing.  Here are three highlights from their book.  (BTW: It was hard to pick three since this book is loaded with useful information!)

Using Written Language That Reflects Students’ Reading Levels

          In order to create charts your students can read, Kristi and Marjorie suggest looking at the books your students are reading to determine:

  • The amount of print on a page

  • The size of the print

  • The size of the spaces

  • The number of lines in print

If this is what your students can read independently, then it serves as a good mentor for how our charts should read (8).

Making Charts Accessible and Adaptable

          Space is often an issue when it comes to displaying charts.  Pages 43-47 provide solutions for classrooms that deal with chart-hanging space constraints.  Some ideas the authors give are using clotheslines to provide space for charts (by hanging them up high), grouping current charts together on a bulletin board, clustering charts for the same subject together on skirt hangers (so they can be taken down as needed), and using table tents to bring the charts to the children’s workspace, and using portable chart books to make it easy to show charts to groups of children (e.g. during a strategy lesson).  In typical Smarter Charts fashion, there are photographs of all of these ideas, which complement the written descriptions.

Retiring: When to Retire a Chart

          After one spends a lot of time creating a successful chart, it’s hard to take that chart down.  If you’re like I was when I was in the classroom, then you have boxes full of charts that you’ll hope to use again.  (Though, once you read Smarter Charts, you’ll realize that you’ll want to take digital pictures of successful charts so you can recreate them with your students the following year… thereby eliminating a lot of clutter!)  Here’s what Kristi and Marjorie have to say about knowing when it’s time to retire your

Charts are made by teachers to make their teaching visible, understandable, and doable.  Therefore, every chart is critical and important in helping students feel they have resources available to help them be successful in the tasks at hand.  Teachers reinforce these ideas every time they refer to a chart while conferring, when teaching a minilesson, and when teaching a small group.  But when do we teach our children they have outgrown some charts or some strategies on the chart? When should some charts begin to recede or just plain leave? The first thing to think about is the purpose for the chart and whether or not it is still fulfilling this purpose. Be aware of next steps. Look at what is on your current charts and then think, “What if all my students are doing all of these things?” “What are they not yet doing?” These can lead to a shared class discussion about what you see and what you wonder, using the class charts as a touchstone to base your discussion upon (78).

Marjorie and Kristi will be here tomorrow to help you gear up for a nonfiction writing unit of study by providing you with a guest blog post about chart-making for this unit, which is often taught in December.  Be sure to come back tomorrow for their tips.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION (Please read carefully since it’s a bit different than usual.)

·         Thank you to Heinemann for agreeing to sponsor a giveaway of one copy of Smarter Charts.

·         To win a copy of the book please leave a comment about this post, in the comments section of this post OR on Kristi and Marjorie’s guest blog post that will appear tomorrow, by Saturday, November 24th, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST. A random drawing will take place by Tuesday, November 27th and the winner’s name will be announced in a blog post later that day.

·         Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Heinemann send the book out to you.  Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.

Comments are now closed.  Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post and on Kristi & Marjorie’s guest blog post.  I entered all of the comments into a drawing (It was a pick-out-of-a-hat kind of drawing since I couldn’t do a random number generator with commenter numbers from both posts.)  Anyway, the comment that was drawn was from Beth Korda who wrote:

Just found you and Chartchums.  The book is on my wishlist.  As a new teacher, I am always searching for new ideas and mentor charts for me.

 

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

56 thoughts on “The Art and Science of Chart Making + A Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. Yay for Chartchums! They have helped me with making my charts become stronger and more effective for my students. I’d love to add this book to my collection.

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  2. This book would be a welcome addition to my professional library. I’ve already gleaned some ideas of how to manage charts especially since I teach several different grade levels.

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  3. This has me thinking that when the time comes, I can take pictures of my charts and create a document of the ones the kids might still need and then give them a copy for their notebooks. This way if they don’t all have it, I can move on and still support those who do. This work fits really well with Cultures of Thinking, which our district has embraced. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I do think that considering the reading level and text chunks on a chart can make a world of difference in the student’s access of that information.

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  5. I’m thrilled to have stumbled on to this- my charts have tended to be a (not very effective) visual for that lesson, never to be seen again- sometimes I’ll use one to create a checklist, but had not been including pictures in the way that I can see will make them so much more useful for my 2nd graders. I’m headed over to chartchums for more info- can’t wait!

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  6. This book seems like it’s “talking to me”. I remember the days of rolling up the charts and found it took longer to find what I wanted than to make them. Plus it was outdated!

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  7. YES! A great resource – I don’t know of any book like it. I often think charts are underrated, but when done correctly they really can become the second “teacher” in the classroom!

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  8. I would love to make my charts appealing.. I like the section about retiring charts because I have limited space within my clasroom. I believe that charts are imoptant at the elementary level. i find that my students often reference my wall displays.

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  9. We bought a few copies of this book to tryout at our school, where we lean heavily on the use of charts for instruction. The teacher are really excited about the book as a resource, since it aligns very closely with our expectations and beliefs about how charts can be so central to teaching and learning. I highly recommend it!

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  10. This book sounds great! I have used the authors’ website so a book would be another great reference. I have seen the value of a good chart in the classroom and would live more ideas…especially those from another kindergarten teacher!

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  11. What a much-needed resource for so many! As a literacy coach, charts can be a challenge to encourage for those who are not confident with them or struggle to make them effective!

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  12. Thank you for letting us know about this book! I am so hesitant about charts because I want them to be useful to my class, and have just the right amount of text. I have been amazed at some of the charts on Pinterest that are so catchy, include great artwork, and look sure to grab a student’s attention. This book could be my new best friend!!

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  13. I have always made charts once in awhile but, until I began following Chartchums, had no idea how effective they could be! Mine were always plain, boring and sporadic. Just by following the blog my charts have evolved into amazing learning tools! I have the book on my wishlist!

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  14. Thank you for the information about the book. I can’t wait to get a copy. I like to take photos of the charts teachers create when I do a formal observation and then I add the photo to the written document.

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  15. Thanks for spreading the word about this fabulous book. I love the book and I love the chartchums blog and their periodic posts. It’s amazing to me how pretty much everything they say in the book and on their blog seems so totally obvious the minute you read it. It’s just so much common sense, but I never seem to be the one to think it. I’ve come to realize the need to chart pretty much EVERYTHING after reading their book and blog. Thanks again for sharing.
    Allison Jackson
    azajacks@yahoo.com

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  16. I’ve always thought that charts can be confusing to students….especially if they are hanging all over the room. So, I’d welcome a copy of this book to help me better utilize them in my classroom.

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  17. Such a great topic, I love charts in our classroom to help student learning and as a new teacher I am always looking at ways to make them better and more productive.

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  18. …as a first year teacher I need all of the advice I can get…I currently am teaching UPK (4’s) and the bulk of my instructional time is spent redirecting anti social behavior which borders on unsafe…freebees welcome

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  19. I am a Reading consultant in CT I have this book and I love it! I have incorporated the use of charts into my goal this year. I recently attended Kristi’s session at the TC reunion and referenced her book in a recent presentation! My teachers ask to borrow the book all the time and I would love to give one away as a door prize at my next session!!

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  20. I really enjoyed this post. My charts are not always neat–sometimes they contain too much info, sometimes not enough. I can get really attached to a nice looking chart… beyond its use. As a first year teacher, charting is still a process I have not mastered by any stretch of the imagination. I would love to read more about this. Thanks.

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  21. Hi There! This is Kristi from Chartchums! Thanks so much for all the love! To answer Kay’s question, the book has shown to be very adaptable to the upper grades. As a matter of fact, some of our colleagues have found the book useful in middle school! The big ideas about creating, using and managing charts are taken from what we learned about the brain and about advertising techniques, so they even work with adults! Thanks again for your comments and questions 🙂

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  22. I’m excited to see anything written by a kindergarten teacher! I am also chart challenged–I never like my handwriting, and no place to hang them. My room has 3 doors, and a whole wall of windows. I’ve seriously thought about using window paint!!

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  23. I love the tip about taking digital pictures. I’ve done that with my own daughter’s projects to reduce clutter, but haven’t transferred the idea to school. I teach 8th grade and know that charts could still help my students. How adaptable is the information to higher grades?

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  24. I love the “Chart Chums” I have been following them since you introduced their blog since you introduced them on here a while ago. I have seen their book and is on my wishlist. I believe charts have enriched my teaching.
    Tammy

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  25. I love the tips you shared. I have been following their blog site and have learned how to make my charts kid friendly and more useful. Would love a copy of the book!

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  26. I have to say, I am chart challenged. Elementary teachers are supposed to have nice, neat, “teacher-like” writing. Mine is not. I hate looking at my charts so I end up typing up a lot of them. I like the tips and “when to retire a chart” Thanks for your post.

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  27. I appreciate that you used the phrase “art and science of chart making.” I don’t know that my charts are all that pretty and tend to be self aware of my lack of artisitc ability. Yet, I work at my text being readable, clear, and kid friendly. This would be a treasure in any classroom.

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