Monday, January 27, 2014
Changing My Stance on Charts and Chart Creation
So, I've been fascinated and blown away by Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mrax since I picked up the book a while ago. I had a basic understanding of charts but after reading this book, I realized that I wasn't as thoughtful as I needed to be about the charts in my room. I usually just used easel paper to capture thinking or post ideas around a topic, etc. There were charts everywhere and kids used a few. After reading Smarter Charts, I realized I had to play around a bit and figure out how to do a better job.
I did a podcast with Kristi and Marjorie for Choice Literacy and one comment from the interview stayed with me. At one point in the interview, Kristi said, " I feel like planning out chart goes right alongside with planning our units in reading, writing, math, and inquiry." She talked about how planning charts was part of the planning and I had never really done that. I just picked up a marker when I thought we needed to capture something. Of course, I had an idea of what kinds of charts would be part of a study but I never really thought them through, planned them out and built them over several days as part of the learning. Then they blogged sharing their process and the blog post made it much more clear to me.
For a while, I tried to play around with the specifics that Kristi and Marjorie talk about. They are so great at drawing and sketching and I am hopeful I'll get more comfortable with these at some point. But in the meantime, I wanted to just rethink the planning of my charts-the purposes, the supplies, the visual support, the construction, the student piece, etc. So, for our nonfiction study that we are doing, learning to build stamina in nonfiction reading while we write informational pieces, we created this chart over the last two weeks.
This is a chart of the learning we did around nonfiction series books in our classroom. I chose 7 series or authors that seemed to be books most 3rd graders could read on their own--books that stretched from the skimming and scanning I've noticed they do in nonfiction. We studied several stacks of these books in small groups, looking for the decisions authors made to make the informational interesting and accessible to readers. This piece of the study served a few purposes. First, it gave my kids lots of time with nonfiction books I am hopeful they'll want to read in the near future--books they haven't looked closely at. It also gave them time to have conversations about the decisions authors made and the features they used in each book. It gave us a common set of books to talk from and it also started conversations about stamina and how these books were all designed to be read from cover to cover. Although we created this chart in a study of reading, I plan to build on what we learned as we move to write our own informational texts.
Here is what I took from the brilliant Chartchums girls that really helped me:
-I actually planned out the chart. I chose the books, pulled stacks and sketched out the way I envisioned the chart. Part of planning was finding books that matched my learning goals for the kids. I planned it along with the planning of the unit of study.
-I changed up the visual piece. I made color copies of book covers to kids could revisit the chart easily as needed throughout the unit. I used 24 X 36 construction paper to give it a background different from those non-thoughtful charts they've become used to ignoring.
-I involved the kids in the process as they added the information about their stack to the chart.
-We built this over days and the chart grew as the understanding grew.
-It is a chart we'll use for more than a few days. It is one that will carry us for several weeks as we've anchored our thinking and can use the books and ideas generated to build our strategies as writers.
I still have a lot to learn about creating better charts and I know Marjorie and Kristi may be cringing as they read this, seeing how much of their brilliance I've missed in this first chart. I do want to get more comfortable with drawings and lettering. I want to play with restickable glue sticks and having min-versions of charts available for kids in the classroom. I want to revisit the book and the blog to see what else I've missed. But, I feel like this first step was about changing my stance about charts. And I feel like I did that. I approach them differently now. I no longer just pick up a marker and fill my classroom with charts no one uses. And I think over time, I will see a huge difference in the ways my students use them because of that.
Love the Chartchums girls and highly recommend their book if you haven't read it.
(And, there is a great new post on Chartchums sharing lots of great posts that go along with the thinking in book and podcast!)