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Anchor Activities: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

No matter how great your time management skills are, there will be moments when students finish their work at different times, leaving them with down time. Read this lesson to learn about anchor activities and how we can fill those gaps in meaningful ways.

What is an Anchor Activity?

When students complete assignments in our rooms such as tests or quizzes, we know each student will work at a different pace and finish at different times. What should they do with that extra time? Can they sit there quietly and play on their cell phones? Of course, but this feels like wasted time.

Instead, try using something called an anchor activity. An anchor activity is an assignment that can be used when students have extra time after completing a lesson or assessment. These types of activities can be carried over throughout the school year and do not need in-the-moment directions.

Independent Reading

There are many students that do not find an interest in the stories that are read in class, but a great way to get more students reading is through independent reading projects. Have students select a book of their choice. This is an excellent way to engage students in a fun reading activity where they get to choose the story. This type of assignment is a perfect anchor activity that can be carried over throughout the year.

When setting up this assignment, take time to offer suggestions, such as memoirs and other nonfiction texts, graphic novels, and classic literature that may not be in the curriculum. However, these should not be their only options. At the end of the day, getting kids to read is the goal. Whether it's Young Adult or Sci-Fi, giving students the time to read quietly, and allowing them to select what they read, can change a life.

Pre-Made Packets

  • Grammar: Teaching grammar within longer units cant be difficult without spending an entire term on the work. Adding short grammar worksheets or a larger self-driven grammar packet is a great way to reinforce information, but it also gives students something to do after testing. Independent mini units such as homonym/homophone practice, comma usages, and parts of speech all reinforce best practice and information students should already know but may need more time to practice.
  • Vocabulary: The same could also be done for vocabulary, such as extra practice worksheets based on the current unit or word list. Handouts containing fill-ins and sentence starters reinforce memorization and comprehension.
  • Math/Word Problems: Create a packet of math problems that correlate to the current unit. Give the students these packets with answer keys to reinforce current and/or new information.

Honing Skills

While reinforcing content and connections to a text or unit are key, we are also skill building on a daily basis. Anchor activities can also include skill building activities. For an English class, give students text passages with practice questions to reinforce content and reading comprehension. You can also offer practice open responses as well, but be sure to give the students feedback on their work so that the work is not considered 'busy work'. Multiple choice questions and open responses can be used for other subjects, such as social studies, science, technology and world language.

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