Personalizing charts to foster intention and independence

More and more, another way we’ve been making sure that charts become part of our writers’ toolbelts is to create individual ones that are either the same as the ones on the wall or close enough that they don’t require instruction for students to access. This strategy has helped so many of our students with both executive functioning and with attention issues because students choose what they need when they need it, and then they can have it right in front of them.

Here are some ways we’ve been doing this:

Offering charts from the bulletin boards

I was working in a fourth-grade classroom, and the teacher and I met to reflect and plan. “I keep making the same charts over and over again when I confer with students,” she said. “I taught the lesson, and I’ve made the chart, but it’s like they have to have it right in front of them.”

The next day, we created an interactive bulletin board for students to access, and we taught them to take a chart when they needed it and return it when they were finished.

Our charts represented the learning targets of our information writing unit, and students learned quickly how to use them.

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I’ve shown it to other teachers who have created similar systems in their classrooms. In a different room, a third-grade teacher offered specific tools as well as small charts for her students to take.

She taught into this board, emphasizing problem-solving in order to build intention as well as independence.

In one other third-grade classroom, the teacher laminated small versions of her larger classroom charts, encouraging students to borrow and return as needed. Her sets were definitely as initial investment of time, but the small charts have lasted!

Students have the choice of many different charts that support a variety of learning targets. In all of these classrooms, the teachers may suggest a specific chart for a student, and a student may intentionally and independently decide on a chart to take. What’s so is that these systems support a spectrum of learners in the classroom because students can review as they need, differentiating for themselves. Furthermore, having the chart, right there in front of them, filters out many of the distractions of other charts or bulletin board features so that the focus stays right there on the intended goal for that writing session.

A few teachers have been in touch and are interested in building “bulletin board sets” over the summer. That way, as the new school year hits and the units come full speed ahead, they have the tools ready to put up for their students. Sounds good to me!