No matter how carefully you have planned your lesson, there is often no way to create an activity that is going to be perfectly paced for the allotted class time for each student. Some students will finish early, and if you make that the benchmark to move on to other activities, you will inevitably leave some students behind. What’s the solution? Anchor activities!
An anchor activity is an activity that is meaningfully connected to the lesson, engaging and worthwhile for the students, and completed on an ongoing basis over a relatively long period of time. This means that any time students are waiting for the next task to begin, finished early with extra time, or stumped and waiting for your individual attention, they can turn to their anchor activity and turn what would be idle time into active learning.
Anchor activities allow you to turn those times in class that can turn unproductive in a more meaningful and intentional way. Anchor activities are particularly useful for the following times:
By having a set activity to turn to during these times, students are empowered to take control of their own education in a way that gives them agency in their learning. It also helps stretch the teacher’s resources since it can be difficult to get to each individual student in a large classroom if several students are asking for assistance.
These practical benefits are matched by the activity’s curricular strengths. Anchor activities often give students the opportunity to think about the lesson in a new, multi-disciplinary way, making connections deeper and more applicable to the students’ lives.
Anchor activities come in many different forms. To get started, choose some simple ones that will not require a lot of prep work in order to get into a routine use of them. As you get more comfortable with them, you can build up to more complex and involved activities.
Some common anchor activities include the following:
Anchor activities work best when a few key principles are kept in mind:
However you decide to implement them, anchor activities can be an excellent addition to your classroom strategies.