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Smarter Charts K-2

Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers

Amp up the power of your charts with tips on design and language, instructional use, and self-assessment. Even better, discover surprising strategies that deepen engagement, strengthen retention, and heighten independence—all by involving students in chart making.

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“Your charts don’t need to be perfect, just thoughtful. You don’t even have to be able to draw. Just put the child before the chart.”

Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz

Listen to an interview with Marjorie and Kristi, the Chartchums, on Education Talk Radio.

Commercially available charts leave you hanging? Want the secret to jump-off-the-wall charts that stick with kids? Trust Smarter Charts.

Did you ever want to know:

  • What do great charts look like?
  • How many is too many?
  • Where are the best places for them in my classroom?
  • How long do I keep them?
  • How do I know if they are working?

Then you’ll want to meet Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz, the Chartchums. They struggled with the same questions, and Smarter Charts shares not only the answers, but the best practices they’ve discovered as well. Amp up the power of your charts with tips on design and language, instructional use, and self-assessment. Even better, discover surprising strategies that deepen engagement, strengthen retention, and heighten independence—all by involving students in chart making.

Packed with full-color sample charts from real classrooms, Smarter Charts shares simple, brain-based strategies proven to make your classroom an even more active, effective space for literacy instruction and classroom management.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)



  • Our Beliefs About Teaching and Learning
  • Charting Our Course: The Questions That Guide Our Process
  • Advertisers Know What They Are Doing
  • It’s All in Your Head: Charts May Not Be Rocket Science, But They Are Brain Science
  • Visual Literacy: A Picture Really Is Worth a Thousand Words But Is Faster to Read
  • Above All, Charts Engage and Lead Students Toward Independence
  • A Field Guide to the Charts in This Book
  • Directions for the Reader

SECTION 1: What Do I Put On My Charts?
Write Headings That Address Common Problems

  • What Are You Teaching?
  • Now How Will You Write it?

Use Written Language That Reflects Students’ Reading Levels

Choose Vocabulary That Mirrors Students’ Oral Language

  • Differentiating Language for Kindergartners and First Graders

CHARTS IN ACTION: Making Thoughtful Language Choices on Charts

Use Icons, Drawings, and Color as Shorthand for Text

  • What Visuals Do I Use?
  • But How Do I Draw That?!
  • What About Color?
  • Using Student Work and Photographs of Students

CHARTS IN ACTION: Visuals on Charts Help Students Recall and Relive the Teaching Focus


SECTION 2: How Can I Help My Students Use the Charts Independently?
Making Charts with Students, or with Students in Mind

  • When Should I Make Charts with Students?
  • But Won’t That Take Forever? Ideas for Efficient Chart Making
  • But What If I Am a Perfectionist? Making the Best Chart in the Least Amount of Time

CHARTS IN ACTION: Co-Creating Charts with Students

Making Charts Accessible and Adaptable

  • Classrooms with Multiple Spaces for Charts
  • Classrooms with One Bulletin Board
  • Classrooms with Restricted Wall Use
  • Make It Stick: Providing Up-Close Access to Charts

Making Charts Memorable: Using Music, Chanting, and Rhyme

  • Charts, Chants, and Cheers
  • Musical Moments Can Make Anything Memorable
  • Using Charts for Shared Reading
  • Using Charts to Make Reading-Writing Connections

CHARTS IN ACTION: Making a Chart Memorable for Students

How Did I Do? Children Can and Should Self-Assess

  • Thinking Through Questioning: The Greatest Gift a Teacher Can Give

Looking and Listening for Signs of Our Own Teaching

Sharing Charts and Chart Assessments with Evaluators

  • Assessing Our Charts: Just What Should We Look For?

CHARTS IN ACTION: Using Charts to Self-Assess

Revise or Retire Charts When the Time Is Right

  • Revising: What Is Old Becomes New Again
  • Retiring: When to Retire a Chart

CHARTS IN ACTION: Bringing a Chart Back to Life by Revising


A. Field Guide to Types of Charts
B. What Should I Write on My Chart?
C. Areas of Teaching and Sample Goals
D. Self-Assessment Sheet
E. Chart Behaviors Observation Sheet
F. Commonly Used Chart Visuals
G. Suggested Resources and Supply List



"Through lesson transcripts, amazing visual support, and down-to-earth real life examples, the Marjorie and Kristi show us that the main work around classroom charts is not what's ON the chart, but rather what's INSIDE the chart. They use language development and brain research, as well as what they know about best practices for teaching to help us see that charts serve much bigger purposes than room enhancement or public records of our teaching. They help us chart a new course for charting that is student-centered, research-based, and aesthetically pleasing."
—Kathy Collins, author of Growing Readers

“Walk into a best practice classroom and what do you see? A great teacher, curious kids, and walls filled with thoughtful, useful, and attractive charts, co-created by everyone in the room. These handmade charts are not a decoration or a "nice" idea—they are a necessity, helping kids take increasing responsibility for their own thinking. Mraz and Martinelli have charted the way, helping us to see the value in these often unrecognized learning tools and showing us how to make great ones with our kids.”
—Harvey “Smokey” Daniels, coauthor of Best Practice, Fourth Edition

“I never realized I needed help with my charts, until I met Kristi and Marjorie. I can step into a classroom and I just know who has been to one of their workshops, worked with them as staff developers, who reads their blog regularly, and now—(and I'm so happy for this)—who has read their book. Kristi and Marjorie bring their humor, creativity, and love of children and learning to every page of this amazing resource. Charts just seemed like paper to scribble some teaching points on, now I will never look at charts the same way again. (P.S. The book may say K-2, but don't tell anyone I work with older than that kids...because I am borrowing every great idea for them).”
—Christopher Lehman, coauthor of Pathways to the Common Core

“Marjorie and Kristi's book is a treasure trove of fantastic information about creating better charts that will help your students increase their working memory of skills and strategies for reading and writing.”
—Stacey Shubitz, from her review at Two Writing Teachers

Related PD Services

Email if you would like to contact Marjorie Martinelli directly about professional development support.

PD Resources From Kristine Mraz