Monday, May 20, 2013

Smarter Charts

Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz just came out this spring and I think a great summer read that will you won't want to miss.  Charts are something we've been using for a long time in education to help guide our students, record our thinking, and capture our learning.  Smarter Charts brings a clear and concise method to organizing our charts.  I never thought about the anatomy of a chart and the essential elements that are needed beyond the heading and the content.  Since returning to kindergarten I've found it a bit challenging in making charts meaningful for my emergent readers and writers.  Not any more!  This text has helped me think about drawing, language, and color.

The tips for drawing make perfect sense.  Our students are living in an age of visual literacy and symbols are are a visual form of communication.  Symbols let all students participate and be engaged with literacy.  It makes sense we would use symbols on our charts.  This text gives us how to drawing steps for creating symbols and drawings.  Marjorie and Kristine give us some staple symbols to use with multiple meanings which brings consistency to charting.  

As we teach different grade levels we have to adjust our language.  Marjorie and Kristine take it to an even more precise level and narrow the amount of language used on charts.  Combined with symbols chart creators can really use short and precise language mirrored after our students oral language to guide learning.    As I looked at their many examples, I noticed the catchy headings that really made me want to know more.  I think my headings have gotten boring or really direct over the years.  

Color is another feature of smarter charts I am looking at ordering supplies for to use next year.  I love a crisp white clean background and so do these gals.  When I think of colors and charting, I think about using different colored markers.  These girls do not.  They use different color sheets of paper or post it notes to create sections on their charts.  This really seems to make the information on the charts easier to read and find.  I learned you can use repositional glue sticks to turn any paper into a post it note.  How great is this?  

This book is also filled with lots of tips for helping our student use the charts to foster independence.  You will also find a section on assessments and if the charts of successful for the students by watching how the interact with the charts.  I loved this sentence, "Assessment is not a test, it is a way to get feedback on our teaching."  Take time to create charts and watch students use the charts.  Students do give us the best feedback if we take the time to watch.

I love when our learning from authors can continue and we are so fortunate Smarter Charts has evolved into a blog with real life examples for us to learn from.  You can find Marjorie and Kristine at

1 comment:

  1. Mandy,
    I ordered this over winter break after JoEllen told us about it at NCTE, but haven't had time to really read it carefully. It's at the top of my summer reading stack. I'll have to hurry and finish it so we can chat about it. Thanks for sharing your reflections.