Elementary Math, Math Talk, Pedagogy, Vocabulary

Mathematical Vocabulary (Anchor Charts)- Part 4

Decorating classrooms is either a perk of being a teacher or just something else on our never-ending to do list.

Some teachers love going into their classrooms over the summer months and creating some of the most magical spaces for student learning. Some teachers would rather not decorate their classrooms to look Pinterest worthy, and set up safe and happy learning environments without all the extra.

My classroom to start the year in 2021. Not a whole lot hanging up. Lots of space to add meaningful learning. Desks arranged in groups for students to be able to communicate thinking with one another in pairs or small groups. Two carpeted areas for students to be able to get down on the floor to play math games or complete activities at. My Daily Number Sense Routine up front on left in a prime real estate location.

Either way you choose to do up your room, that’s 100% up to you and there is no judging here. I wrote a blog post a little over a year ago about classroom decor. It can be a hot topic, but my opinion is… less is more to start the year. Take a few minutes and read about why I say this. 

Classroom Decor… or Lack Thereof

As I said in the linked blog post, Edutopia has an article and a video about setting up your classroom. Check them out here…

Do’s and Don’t of Classroom Decorations 

5 Tips for Decorating Your Classroom

What struck me was the very last sentence “The takeaway: Classroom walls should feel warm and lively but not overcrowded—keep 20 to 50 percent of the wall space clear, and fill the rest with student work, inspiring pictures, and learning aids.” 

Vocabulary with operations is key in understanding what to do in real-world problems. In 4th grade I didn’t need to get into the visuals for addition and subtraction as much as I did for multiplication and division. These were made with the students as the student made the same thing in their math journals. I had the pieces cut out and ready to go before class started using an Ellison Di-Cut machine. These posters were made as we went throughout the school year and were not made before hand, hung up, and waiting for the students.

This is where anchor charts come into play. Anchor charts are learning aids, but could also consist of student work.  I’ve been working in a number of classrooms lately and coaching through Zoom. Much of what I’ve seen and heard from teachers is, students don’t know the vocabulary. My most common suggestion for teachers this fall has been creating anchor charts with their students. A lot of my focus in the last few months has been on building number sense and flexibility with numbers. Many of the teachers I am working with are implementing a Daily Number Sense Routine. Through the various grade levels and the different parts of the DNSR I have noticed a lot of the mathematicians wanting to share their thinking and communicate their thoughts. It’s been amazing seeing and hearing about so many students getting excited about math and communicating their thinking. As I have sat through lessons and had conversations with teachers the same thing comes to the surface, student use of vocabulary is lacking with their explanations. 

This takes us back to classroom decor. We’ve all seen the store-bought beautiful posters that cover the topics being taught in our classrooms. We find just the right spot and use all sorts of adhesives to hang them up. Most of the time, students look at them once and don’t use them again (unless you reference them over and over and over). Store-bought posters become more of a decoration than a learning aide. 

My suggestion is to make anchor charts with your students! When you make an anchor chart with your students the ownership transfers from you the teacher to the students. The students contribute to what goes on the anchor chart and there is meaning with it. I take it step farther and have the students create the same anchor chart in their math journals/binders. 

Everything that goes up in your classroom needs to play a role and have a purpose. Take a few minutes to look around your room. What is the role of each item you have displayed in your room? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with something that is “decorative”. If we create and reference our mathematical posters (anchor charts) with our students, the connections are created and strengthened each time we and our students use them. 

I hang most of my anchor charts on my windows or from the blinds using paperclips. The blinds are not damaged in the hanging or taking down of the posters. I back all of my anchor charts so they have a lining with the sun coming through.














I have included a few images throughout this post to help inspire you with various ways you can create and display anchor charts in your classrooms. I continue to hang my anchor charts, but if I find I’m running out of room, I move the older ones out to the hallway so they’re still displayed and seen frequently.

Leave a Reply