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Whiteboards Stimulate Student Learning

Lesson Planning ChannelStart with a clean slate next semester -- introduce mini-whiteboards to your classroom! Students love working on their own whiteboards; it's a great way of keeping an entire class actively involved in a lesson. Education World offers five lessons to engage students in learning with whiteboards.

Individual student whiteboards are the 21st-century version of the chalk slates used by students in colonial times! As thousands of teachers have found, they're are a great way of actively involving students in the learning process -- and a terrific tool for immediate feedback and assessment.


Mini-whiteboards are easy to make.

If your students already have mini-whiteboards, skip the instructions below and go directly to this week's Whiteboard Lesson Plans.

Most building supply stores or your local hardware store carry sheets of the material that builders use to line bathroom showers -- sometimes called melamine or tile board. A panel of whiteboard material, usually measuring 4 feet by 8 feet, costs about $10.

Most stores will cut the panels to any size you wish -- especially if you tell them the whiteboards are for classroom use. First, however, you'll want to consider how you'll use the whiteboards. Most teachers find that individual boards cut to a size of 12 inches square work well, but boards can be cut to any size. For example:

  • If you're a math teacher, you might want to cut the whiteboards large enough to use for long-division problems or equations or to draw number lines.
  • If you're a language teacher, you might want long, thin whiteboards for teaching sentence diagramming.
  • If you're a history teacher, you might want longer whiteboards that students can use to create time lines.



Before you introduce whiteboards to your students, you might want to know the following:

  • The edges of cut-up whiteboard sheets can be sharp. Many teachers use brightly colored electrical tape to cover the four edges of each board. Perhaps the shop teacher in your school will put his or her students to work sanding those rough edges smooth.
  • You will need a ready supply of dry-erase markers. Most parents are willing to supply markers for this use. If you maintain a classroom "wish list," you can add dry-erase markers to it. Otherwise, include them in your classroom budget.
  • Provide a ready supply of paper towels or tissues for cleaning the boards. Many teachers have each child bring an old white sock from home.
  • Determine in advance whether students will keep the whiteboards in their desks or in a common area of the classroom. If you keep them in a common area, students might write their names on their whiteboards at the end of each activity. Wherever you keep them, place each whiteboard in a resealable storage bag, along with a sock and a marker.
  • Some teachers paint the backs of the whiteboards with chalkboard paint. That way, if a marker runs dry in the middle of an activity, the student can turn over the board and use chalk to complete the task.
  • Keep a supply of whiteboards available for rainy day recess. Students love using them for games of tic-tac-toe or hangman. They also enjoy creating their own games and activities!
  • Be sure students clean boards after each use. Markings left on the boards for long periods can stain them.
  • If a board does become stained, try cleaning it with rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or a commercial cleaner. Test cleaning solutions first on a spare board because some solutions can damage whiteboards.
  • Whiteboards come in handy when students are sitting on the floor for a group lesson. They can write on whiteboards placed on their laps.
  • Individual students can use their mini-whiteboards to keep score during classroom games. That way, every student gets math practice!


If whiteboards aren't in your budget, or if the smell of dry-erase markers is an issue for you or some students, workable alternatives are available.

  • Some teachers use sheets of pegboard material -- without the holes, of course -- instead of whiteboard; the smooth side of the cut sheets can be painted with blackboard paint to create mini-chalkboards.
  • Other teachers cover manila file folders with black chalkboard contact paper. The students use chalk to write on their "response folders."
  • If chalk dust is as big an issue for you as marker fumes, try covering manila file folders, hard cardboard, or white tag board with clear contact paper. Students can write on these mini-boards with crayons and clean them with tissues.


This week, Education World offers five ideas for using whiteboards as a tool for active classroom learning.

Daily Numbers: A Daily Math Skill Reinforcement Activity
Use this daily lesson to reinforce skills and improve student test scores in math and other areas of the curriculum. (Grades K-12)

Handwriting Practice Made Easy
Students use lined whiteboards as they learn and practice handwriting skills.
(Grades K-5)

Jeopardy-Style Game
Help students use individual whiteboards to review content before a unit test or to improve skills in vocabulary, geography, math, and so on. (Grades K-12)

Spelling Test
Students actively participate in whiteboard exercises that replace traditional (boring!) weekly spelling activities. (Grades K-8)

Guess Which Word?
Engage students in a game that reinforces phonics and language skills. (Grades K-12)

Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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