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23 February 2016 @ 09:57 am
Anchor Anger  
There have been a couple of posts lately on Facebook and Twitter and blogs that have left me wondering left me scratching my head, left me perturbed at what Is happening in reading.

One post talked about assessing independent reading. I cringe when I see this. It is so easy to cross the line between assessment, true assessment and assigning grades for something that should, IMHO, be left relatively ungraded. Conferring with kids, classroom talk about the books they are reading--this is the extent of what I would hope for when it comes to assessment.

Today, I came across a post entitled 21 Anchor Charts that Teach Reading. Um, no. Anchor charts do NOT teach reading. To be fair, I think the title did not actually mean to indicate charts teach. Instead, there were charts about a wide array of literary elements and skills such as character development, plot structure, and point of view. However, there were also tons of charts focused on skills that included how to decode, cause and effect, main idea, etc.

I see loads of anchor charts on social media. I understand the role they can play. My concern is this: how many of these should be on display at any given time in a classroom? Is the classroom wallpapered in charts? Do we pull out some when it is time to talk about a particular text or skill? How many are needed? Is every chart for every reader?

I was particularly dismayed by charts telling students to circle, underline, highlight, number, etc. I have lived through this process as a parent and grandparent. We purchased massive amounts of highlighters during test prep when kids were instructed to highlight what was important in a text as they read. Trouble was, they could not always figure out what NOT to highlight. The web site with all the anchor charts also has loads of links to worksheets. It has posts sponsored by companies that produce products and programs. I guess that should have been a clue for me as well.

Don't get me wrong: I assess and evaluate. I spent some time this morning assessing summaries of readings my students did for their history of children's literature class. Next week I will assess annotated bibliographies for K-adult on themes of interest to their classrooms, schools, and/or districts. So, students are accountable. I do give grades. I do explain how to do assignments, provide examples (ones I have completed), include screencasts and videos (are these my anchor charts I wonder?).

I am in the catbird seat (see here for an explanation of this phrase: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catbird_seat), I know. So perhaps I am being too harsh. Maybe I am confusing the term independent reading with something else. I am old. I am a curmudgeon. But I know if I had to highlight, number, circle, etc. I would soon lose interest in reading. Sometimes I just want to read, maybe reflect, then read some more.
 
 
Current Location: office
Current Mood: puzzled
 
 
 
Alexandra LeavellAlexandra Leavell on February 24th, 2016 12:17 am (UTC)
Don't confuse the anchor with the sea
I've been reading the Maisie Dobbs Series and the title character frequently says, "Coincidence is the messenger of truth." So, interesting coincidence that you should post this as I prepare for tomorrow's undergrad class. We are starting our genre studies, and I planned to have my students make an anchor chart for Modern Fantasy that is appropriate to the grade they plan to teach. It's a way to introduce the purpose of the anchor chart and determine what the critical elements of the genre are. I'm in agreement that there's an anchor craze going on. And, as with so many good teaching aids, I see that the purpose of the aid has gotten lost in the creation of the product itself. I'm reminded of a recent post by Fountas and Pinnell urging teachers to use leveling as a way to determine "the right book for the right child for the right purpose" and avoid making the numbers and a lock-step progression through the levels the focus for themselves and their readers. Anchor charts were initially intended to scaffold strategic, metacognitive ways of thinking for struggling readers. A way to make explicit the ways of thinking that come naturally to "good readers". The images I see are frequently print-heavy, little more than lists really, created by the teacher or worse yet, a commercial producer who knows nothing about the needs of the target audience of children needing support. To me, an anchor chart should be created and used sparingly to help readers with what they cannot yet do on their own. Too many charts will result in a loss of power in terms of how helpful the aid actually is. If the purpose is lost, it's just another thing to hang on the wall. Guess I'll be rethinking my instructional strategy for tomorrow! Thanks for throwing me a line.