In my fifth-grade language arts class, we use a lot of technology. The start of the year seems incomplete when comparing this new group of students with the ones who just moved on to sixth grade, because they don’t know all of the tech options that are at their fingertips. This has been a struggle for me in the past. Some students immediately absorb all directions for a website, app, or other technology piece we are using. Others need a lot of guidance. And then there is the larger problem of how they can use this technology without me. If there is a substitute, chances are, the substitute doesn’t know what to do either. I needed to find a better way. The solution I thought of this summer was to create tech anchor charts.
Making anchor charts for what I teach isn’t a new concept to me, but the way I created these charts this year was. I sat down and brainstormed every tech device, app, or website I would typically teach a lesson on in the first nine weeks in our language arts class. I came up with the following list:
- Thoughts on digital citizenship (Be Kind)
- iPad general rules
- Google Drive
- Booksource Classroom Organizer (classroom library check-out)
- Audioboom and QR Codes
- A list of options for blogging when on Kidblog
- Twitter—how to tweet in our classroom account
- Goodreads—how to use our classroom account
- Sonic Pics
- Explain Everything
With this list in mind, I set about to create a step-by-step Google Doc that would teach each item. I looked at each blank page in Google Docs as if it were a piece of chart paper on my easel. What would I need to teach the kids for this item? What would make it easier for them to use the tech device (app, website, and so on) without me?
I tried to make each anchor chart as detailed as possible. I included passwords, directions that instructed my students what to use each item for, and more. Finally, I had a set of “charts” that I was happy with. You can click here to view the charts.
My first unit in language arts is something I titled “Learning to Live Like Readers and Writers.” In this unit I teach how to select books, how to complete nightly reading and writing goals, how to keep track of your reading life, and so on. This year I added about two “tech” charts to teach each week as well.
When teaching a new tech piece, I made it the sole focus of the minilesson for that day. I shared the app or website with the students, discussed the purpose, and shared how they would access it. On a giant anchor chart, I showed them the step-by-step directions they would need to use that tech option. Then came the step I hadn’t had before. I gave each student a copy of the anchor chart to keep in their ELA binder and I placed an extra copy in a binder that would live in our classroom. I explained to the students that this binder would be for them to reference if they left their binders at home. It would also be for any questions a substitute might have about the tech pieces we used in our classroom.
I have found that most of my students refer to the charts until they are comfortable with each tech piece we use. Some are used daily, so at this point of the year, their charts aren’t needed as much as they once were. My students feel comfortable with those tech items. Other tech choices, such as Audioboom, are ones we don’t use as regularly. When attempting to use those, my students still rely on our tech charts. And, of course, I still have the students who rely upon the teacher. I have trained myself to ask them if they looked at their chart first before sweeping in to help them. My ultimate goal is a group of students who can function independently. If I always rescue them, that won’t happen.