T-shirts and T-charts: Long live them both!

My favorite non-teaching book these days is Generation T:  108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt.  If you are into repurposing, or upcycling, using old t-shirts is a fantastic way to honor the art & craft.  Who doesn't have a stack of old tees laying around?   Plus, this blog (and the book) have so many clever ways to transform a tee into something fabulous.  Over the weekend, my nieces and I upcycled some old tees using Nicolay's ideas.  Funky, no, for a fourth grader?   All those 5K t-shirts are getting a new lease on life.

Thinking about old tees reminds me of a teaching strategy that has been around for a while...the T-chart.  It is an efficient strategy as it can be used with a variety of subjects, in a variety of ways AND students can be coached to create t-charts for themselves.  What you say?  Students can create their own t-charts without teacher-direction?!  Indeed.  Long live t-charts and self-directed-learning!  Let's begin.

First, a t-chart looks just like the name suggests, a "t."  Actually, a lowercase "t," to be exact.  You and/or your students fill in the descriptors, criteria, elements, etc. on the top line of the "t."  I used an old classic, "What does partner work look like and sound like?"  You may be smirking, but how many times have you expected your students to work successfully and diligently in pairs or small groups to soon find out they lack the necessary skills to do so effectively.  In comes your handy-dandy t-chart.

Then, either individually, in pairs, small groups or as a whole class fill out the t-chart.  I often times like to start with individual brainstorming first and then move to pairs and larger groups.  That way, each student individually has an opportunity to process their ideas and the t-chart at their own pace - this would be especially true for students with special needs or English language learners.  A finished t-chart might look like this.....

(By the way, the English teacher in me wants to add "s" to Looks like and Sounds like. I will refrain.)
I adore using t-charts to....
  • Discuss pros and cons
  • Explore what something "Looks like" or "Sounds like."  This would be super in a science lab setting.
  • Good and evil in literature, politics, or life!
  • Compare and contrast
  • Opposites
  • Cause and effect - If, then scenarios (This is especially helpful to discuss how a student might handle a situation.  "If Sandy tries to pick on you during lunch, then..."  "If you do not have Internet access at home, then.....)
Are you in love with t-charts yet?  What about t-shirts?

T-bars?  T-birds?  Model Ts?

How do you use t-charts?  What other ideas for t-charts do you have?  Please leave your brilliant comments and ideas below in the comments section (so adequately named). 

Off I go to t-chart the universe and upcycle a tee.   My sweet husband kindly cleaned out his t-shirt drawers last week for me.  Now, my cup runneth over with cycling tees from every road and mountain bike race in our region.

T-otally happy,


  1. I LOVE t-charts - I also love t-shirt and try to find as many ways to wear them to school and still look professional. Anyway, I like the 'may do'/'must do' T-chart. This is helpful when giving students choices but also setting up paramaters. My most awesome t-chart was the indoor recess t-chart. As a class, we brainstormed what we must do during indoor recess: stay seated, use an indoor voice, respect the adult in the classroom. The may dos included: Legos, draw on paper, read, write, put your head down.
    This gives students autonomy but within reason. I will use this t-chart throughout the winter whenever we have indoor recess and with enough practice, it should become a habit (I hope!)

    Elise T.

  2. I love T- charts. In my fieldwork this semester I noticed that students were doing so many activities with brain maps and graphic organizers. This is such a great was to help students sort out their thoughts and prior knowledge about a topic. I like the idea of letting students word on the T-chart independently before working with a partner.

    I also like the t-shirt ideas :)Now i'm going to go make some tea!
    Emillee C.

  3. T-Charts have always been one of my favorite tools in learning! They are the perfect organizer to get your thoughts down on paper! They work well with compare and contrast, definitions, and any other concepts you can think of. They have been a great study source for myself in the classroom growing up and i can see them being a helpful tool in my own classroom as well!

    -Carrie W.

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