As a teacher, every August I have the same recurring nightmare. I am teaching my heart out to a class of 40 fifth graders (I am unsure of why my classroom is so over crowded and why the students are always 5th graders). After I finish my lesson, hands raise all around the room signaling that my teaching left more questions than answers. After I wake up a little sweaty and anxious, my thoughts begin to calm and I realize this was just a bad dream. I notice that a fear of mine as an educator is that my teaching will not transfer into student learning. One of the reasons that teaching brings me so much joy is when I see “light bulbs” go off in my students minds as the new concepts I teach make sense, and they can make meaning of the task ahead of them. I love seeing students grow and accomplish tasks that they wouldn’t have thought possible a few days or even moments before. Now I know that the educational term for this process of the “light bulb going off” is called transfer. The process of taking one experience and extending the new skills and strategies to unfamiliar tasks.
One way we can make our teaching points extra sticky in our students’ brains is to take our teaching points and turn them into checklists. Let’s try this on for size in your own classroom. Look at an anchor chart that you have used in the past week. As you reflect on the anchor chart, what skills from the chart could be replicated across multiple texts or writing pieces regardless of the content? When you find an anchor chart like this, it is a great chart to turn into a checklist.
Here’s an example from a unit our team just completed with studying characters. We were looking through the perspectives of Opal from Because of Winn Dixie and Dyamonde Daniel from Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel.
In this inquiry anchor chart, as a class, we explored how Opal and Dyamonde solved their problems, the lesson they learned through the process, and how this life lesson seems to apply to other books. We could take this same 3 step process and turn it into a checklist that students could transfer to any book to help them determine the theme:
To try this on for size with taking an anchor chart from a professional development session and turning it into a checklist, here is an example of an anchor chart that I created for an upcoming book study I am leading for The Joyful Teacher by Berit Gordon:
As a recovering perfectionist, setting realistic goals can be really challenging for me. I set unreasonably high expectations for myself, and then when I don’t meet my own predetermined unrealistic expectations, I internally beat myself up. Through incorporating Berit Gordon’s strategy of setting the bar where I can jump it, I have changed the goals that I have set for myself from goals that are task based to goals that are personally meaningful. My old pattern of goal setting would have been to finish 5 tasks each day. My new goal is to make sure that every teacher I interact with today will know that what she or he does matters. My goals have changed from task focused to people focused. Yes, I still have to accomplish the tasks, but now the measure of my effectiveness isn’t merely based on how many tasks I accomplish; my effectiveness is based on how well I accomplished tasks through noticing and empowering others.
So, here’s how to change this anchor chart into a checklist that can transfer into any type of goal setting:
Although this may seem like a tiny shift to move the tasks from an anchor chart to a checklist, the format can be a powerful way to transfer this kind of goal setting to any scenario: parenting, friendship, health, etc. Instead of the anchor chart being set aside after I finish this week of The Joyful Teacher book study, I am internalizing the teaching points and making it a part of my regular goal setting routine. (As a visual learner, I also have my goal written down on a post-it note stuck to my computer monitor. I need to train my brain to set goals this way, and it takes time to change our mindsets.)
How might reframing your anchor charts into checklists empower you and your students this week? I encourage you to check out the The Joyful Teacher book study I am leading in June to learn more practical strategies to increase our joy for teaching through troubleshooting predictable challenges. This book study is a chance to recharge our teacher batteries after such a trying couple of years, and if you are interested, you have the opportunity to earn college credit, too! Here’s the link to check out more information: https://compasspd.mykajabi.com/offers/b6LVdUtn/checkout