Coaches' Corner: Skillful Use of Visual Reminders

For Middle Level

Dear Coach Chris,
How can I use the Y-chart concept in a way that keeps my room from feeling cluttered? I have only a few Y-charts for various things, and although I could use many more I don't feel that I have the wall space for them.

I also wonder whether having so many of them could burn the kids out or create sensory overload. I want the charts to be interesting and catch students' attention so they are really reading and remembering the expectations. Too many charts may cause their heads to swim. One idea I had was to create more Y-charts that are usable in multiple situations and fewer that apply only to specific routines.

Finally, do some routines not fit well with Y-charts? Are there other ways of visually setting expectations and/or some routines for which whole-group conversations work best?

Please help.

Coach Chris says:
You are on the right track. Too many written reminders hanging on classroom walls and hallways can be counterproductive. You need some wall space to display quality student work, photos from a field trip, or other relevant academic and community documents.

Your Y-charts can help you revisit a routine that you've already modeled. After the modeling, write on the chart a few student-generated ideas about how the routine should look, sound, and feel. Post the chart for a few days and refer to it to reinforce and remind. Once the routine is up and running, store the chart away. If things start slipping, repost it and review it with your students. In this way, you're likely to have a chart or two up at any given time, leaving most of your wall space for other things.

Create a Y-chart or other visual reminder (see example charts in Classroom Discipline: Guiding Adolescents to Responsible Independence) for each of your major routines-such as entering the classroom, independent work time, transitions, clean-up, circling up, walking in the hallways, using the rest room, and handing in work. You don't have to create a visual reminder for every routine, since modeling is sufficient sometimes. If the modeled routine slips later, you can remodel and/or create a visual reminder. Listing the steps of any routine (when there aren't too many steps) is another format you can use for a visual cue-and don't forget that simply using reminding language helps: "Who can remind us how we're supposed to enter the classroom?"

Christopher Hagedorn is a former  Developmental Designs consultant.

Published January 2011