September 6, 2014

"Anchoring" Behaviors and Routines

Well the first week of school has come and gone.  The positives include I have an amazing group of sixth graders that I will be working with this year, and I am a person that thrives on routine so I've been transformed back into the productive form of myself.  The negative is that my bedtime has been moved ahead by two hours! :)

The first week of school is in many ways the most important, as it seems to set the tone for the remainder of the year.  Taking extra time to develop expectations and routines together seems to always pay off.  On the flip side, spending too much time talking over all of the rules and dragging out the syllabus talk for two class periods seems to be complete overkill.  I prefer the nice in between of getting students to understand the feel of how the class is going to run while also specifically setting routines and expectations along the way.

As my students and I develop these expectations and routines together, I jot them down right on our Smartboard and then make anchor charts based on students' responses.  Below are the anchor charts we have developed as a sixth grade Language Arts class so far this year.

In middle school, every tick of the clock counts.  I have 90 minutes daily to teach Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Word Study.  This means there's no time at the beginning of the class period to waste.  Teaching my students a beginning of the class period routine is essential.  There's a white board outside of my classroom where I list all of the materials they should have with them in class each day.  I also write a "Question of the Day" on the board that relates to our minilesson to get students background information activated about the reading or writing target we will be aiming for that day.  Each day this week I talked with students about our routine by referring to this anchor chart, asking students to self-reflect on how they did following it and also encouraging students to move through the routine as rapidly as possible.

The first piece of the Balanced Literacy framework that I introduce is Interactive Read Aloud.  I take the students through a read aloud before asking them to form the expectations for read aloud time.  Each subsequent day, we have reviewed the expectations prior to reading and then given ourselves a score out of 10 after the read aloud each day.  (We are still striving for that perfect ten out of ten!)

Another piece of the Balanced Literacy framework that I introduced is Sentence Stalking while using sentences from our Interactive Read Aloud as mentor sentences.  These authentic sentences create a springboard for learning about grammar in context.  This anchor chart helps support students to spark ideas of possible places to notice in the mentor sentences.

After reading my students' first reading responses in relation to our Interactive Read Aloud, it was quite obvious that my students were suffering from "summer brain" a.k.a. writing in texting lingo.  We had a great conversation about "academic writing" and what is the appropriate way to write in ANY school situation.

Well, there you have it: a summary of the first week of school through anchor charts.  I hope everyone out there is off to a great start with their school year.  I look forward to following many of you on your journeys this year and have many of you also join me in mine!


  1. This is a brilliant idea. We started four weeks ago, so I am going to use this idea as a review of expectations with my classes. The honeymoon is over and we need to review!

    1. We all wish the honeymoon period would last longer than it does! Glad these anchor charts give you ideas of how to review expectations! :)

  2. I have an 85 min literacy block thanks to some creative timetabling and a supportive principal. I haven't been sure of whether to do a short block of readers and writers workshop everyday or to stagger them so I have a long block of readers workshop and then alternate with writers workshop. It looks like you are doing Readers and Writers everyday. Do you prefer to divide up the class time like that?

    1. Hi Bud,

      I have tried a variety of ways to split up the class period at the middle school level. This year I am doing reading and writing every day but only one minilesson. For example, if I do a reading minilesson, I run a full Reading Workshop, but still give 15 minutes or more of independent writing time at the end of the class period. Have you downloaded my "How Should I Structure My Literacy Block?" free download from my TpT store? If not, check it out. It might help provide some ideas of how to structure time.

  3. What does creating an anchor chart in your classroom look like? Would creating an anchor chart with the class be used as a mini-lesson when learning a new concept, i.e. theme? When and how do you do this?

  4. Hi Ali,

    I've written so many posts about anchor charts that I think it's probably best to answer this through a link with all of the posts I've written about how I use anchor charts in my classroom.

    I hope some of this information is helpful to you! Anchor charts are awesome!



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