I appreciate history, but you have to bring your own experience into your rooms.
My cousin was in the process of moving into her new home. She reached out to me for advice on decor before her housewarming party. Up for the challenge, I arrived at the house to find fresh paint on the bare walls. We began pulling out all of the decorative pieces she had collected over the years—a mirror from her mom, a lamp from her college years, a wedding photo. And the what-ifs began. What if we put this lamp here? What if we hung this picture there? What if this vase sat here?
As the minutes ticked by, most of the walls remained bare. “What do you think?” she asked. She was hoping I would be the one to put it all together. A part of me wanted to take the hammer and nails and start assembling the combinations of pictures and decor that I thought worked for the space, to get the house ready for her upcoming housewarming party. But I knew that it wasn’t about me. I would be leaving shortly, and she would be eating there, sleeping there, and living there day in and day out.
Before leaving the house, I looked around and found one wall partially decorated, with the rest still empty. Hugging her, I said, “Give it time. You will find the right pieces to fit who you are. Don’t rush to put something up just to fill the space.” I walked out to my car, feeling surprisingly successful. My cousin had started to put her mark on this blank canvas. Over time, she will find unique pieces that she can add when the time is right. This home will ultimately reflect what she and her family value and hold close to their hearts.
Every August, teachers brave the heat and humidity to come up with fun themes to decorate their classroom. Bulletin boards are covered with crisp new paper and furniture is rearranged. We feel pressure to have our rooms completely decorated for the big reveal on day one when students walk over the threshold for the first time.
In Kids First from Day 1: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom, co-authors Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz share two big ideas about setting up classroom space to start the school year. The first is to start with a blank canvas when setting up your classroom, not with a finished masterpiece. The second is to let your space reflect your students.
What if we started the school year with our classrooms looking like a blank canvas? What if we allowed our classroom decor to emerge in response to the students who learn in that space day in and day out? What if our classroom walls changed over time, reflecting values and experiences that come up over our time together?
This week we consider what place anchor charts might have on that blank canvas of our classroom walls. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills explain the three principles they use to help avoid the “charts as wallpaper” syndrome in their fourth-grade classroom.
A daunting task for teachers is to help students learn to use new tech tools, as well as understand community standards for each one. Katherine Sokolowski finds tech anchor charts are a great way to provide ongoing support to students as they navigate new software and apps.
Kelsey Carter shares advice for making charts more student-centered.
We’re launching two new self-paced online courses soon. It’s a Cycle, Not a Hamster Wheel with Dana Murphy gives step-by-step advice for launching successful coaching cycles. English Language Learners and Literacy Instruction with Stella Villalba provides resources and insights for working with English language learners in elementary classrooms. If you’re a Choice Literacy member, you’ll receive 20-40% discounts off the course fees.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Dana Murphy develops a love-hate relationship with the faded anchor charts peeling away from her classroom walls. She moves some anchor charts into a sketchbook, and uses a website for other chart images.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills share many of their favorite anchor charts for helping students connect writer’s craft to mentor texts.
Give yourself the gift of reading this beautiful end-of-summer poem and reflection on how dreams change as we age from Shirley McPhillips.
In an encore video, Melanie Meehan chats with second-grade teacher Nadia Egan about her ingenious use of table charts to enhance conferences and whole-class instruction.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Suzy Kaback finds consensus mapping on chart paper is a powerful tool for leading teachers through any change process.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan recommend highlighting small triumphs from the week with celebration charts as a great way to launch any professional development session.
Adam Grant shares some provocative thoughts on how leaders’ strengths can become weaknesses if they are overused.
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
That’s all for this week!