How to Create Anchor Charts Students Will Actually Use

Get ready to discover how to create an anchor chart that kids will actually use consistently until they’ve mastered whichever learning objective the chart targets.

Anchor charts are student/teacher-made, poster-sized visuals that highlight essential content from a lesson or specific unit of study.

Usually placed in highly visible, accessible places, they serve as visual references for students (and teachers) to use during teaching and learning.

Following are the 7 simple steps to making an effective anchor chart…

Related: Pair anchor charts with any one of these learner-centered teaching strategies.

How to Create an Anchor Chart

1.  Choose a Learning Objective.

The first step in creating an anchor chart is to think about your learning objectives, teaching standards, and/or overall lesson ideas.

What exactly do you want students to master?

At the beginning of the school year, you may have anchor charts about classroom procedures and rules. Those are skills and concepts you’ll most likely keep posted all year long.

Academic content is a little different.

Because anchor charts are tools used to remind learners of essential content, only create charts focused on concepts/skills that you’ve already taught and for which students need additional support.

Once you’ve decided on a learning objective, you’re ready for the next step.

2.  Gather Appropriate Materials.

The second step is to gather the supplies you’ll need.

Keep the following materials on hand…

  • White Anchor Chart Paper (with or without lines)
  • Permanent Markers
  • Odds and Ends such as a ruler, scissors, sticky notes, and a pencil

3.  Conduct a Little Research for Inspiration.

No need to reinvent the wheel. Take a look around Pinterest for anchor chart design ideas.

Also take a look inside your colleagues’ classrooms to see what charts they’ve got hanging around.

4.  Make an Outline or Frame.

While it’s perfectly fine to begin an anchor chart with just a blank slate, a simple outline or frame adds meaningful context to the lesson objective.

If, for example, an anchor chart will focus on learners knowing characteristics of the planets…

Then have pictures of the planets already on the chart and then just focus on adding information about characteristics of the planets with the students.

A simple frame or outline saves time and adds context. 

Also include a big, clear title along the top of the chart.

5.  Now Fill In the Anchor Charts with Students.

Here’s where the magic happens.

Anchor charts are meant to be teaching and learning tools that help students internalize learning concepts, so include the charts as part of your lesson, whether that be at the beginning, middle, or end.

Kids taking part in the creation process in a significant way is extremely important for their learning process.

Have them do the thinking and brainstorming while you record their responses, guiding them and adding your “suggestions” for the chart here and there.

6.  Add a Bit of Decoration.

Now add a dash of pizzazz.

Before placing an anchor chart on the wall, jazz it up to give it a little flair. Don’t go overboard though – too many colors easily overwhelm some kids.

Add just enough color to make the chart “pop”, and be sure to leave a decent amount of white space.

Ask yourself… “Is the information clear, relevant, and easy to understand for students?”

7.  Strategically Place Completed Anchor Chart.

After creating a chart, put it in a visible place where students can refer to it as needed.

And consider organizing your anchor charts on the wall by subject area.

Strategically organizing them minimizes the amount of time students use when searching for the exact chart they need.

Keep charts posted until every child has mastered the concept, and remind your little ones often to refer to them as needed.

If you begin using anchor charts from the first week of school and discuss with students the expectations of using them, they’ll eventually use them effortlessly.

Consistency is key.

If after some weeks or months you still have one or two learners struggling to master a concept, take a photo of the anchor chart, print it, and place the printout in the children’s notebook for reference.

How to Create an Anchor Chart: A Simple Checklist

To create an anchor chart that meets all the criteria, download the simple anchor chart checklist (via Google Slides).

how to make an anchor chart checklist

Anchor Chart Tips & Tricks

  • Keep your charts simple. They’re for students’ use first and foremost. “Cuteness” falls behind that.
  • Consider not recycling the same charts year after year. The charts you use each year should depend on the needs of your class. If your class is strong in a particular concept, you may not have a chart for that skill. Remember, anchor charts are meant to reinforce needed skills.
  • Once students have mastered a concept, take the anchor chart down, but don’t throw it away. Use it as a center activity or keep all of them in a designated area to be used by learners for special projects or activities.
  • Anchor charts are usually chart-paper sized, but they don’t have to be. Depending on the topic, a half-sheet may work just fine.
  • If you teach elementary school, organize charts on the wall by subject area. Middle or secondary teacher? Categorize by units or concepts.
  • Use anchor charts during mini-lessons, guided practice, or as part of informal assessments. They’re versatile.

Creating an Anchor Chart They’ll Use Is Key

Now you know the steps for making an anchor chart that your students will actually use.

Kudos to empowering them to take control of their own learning.