By Teachers, For Teachers
When it comes to active engagement, nothing beats a classrooom whiteboard. Not the expensive, high-tech kind – I’m referring to the low-tech white boards that students write on with dry erase markers.
If I had to choose between an interactive white board and a classroom set of dry erase boards, I’d choose the low-tech white boards every time.
Find out why dry erase boards are great teaching tools AND how to use them to actively engage students.
1. You can use them to engage every child in every single lesson.
2. Minute by minute, you’ll know exactly who’s grasping the concepts and who’s not.
3. Students love them because they’re fun. Mistakes made during guided practice can be easily brushed away.
4. Using dry erase boards will save paper and significantly reduce the stack of work you take home to grade.
5. Dry erase boards can be used in whole group instruction, small guided groups, and learning centers.
6. No need to worry about technology failing when you need it most.
7. No learning curve or advanced prep! Just pass out the dry erase boards and let the learning begin!
I sometimes worry that using dry erase boards will become a lost art. So I decided to share some of my favorite strategies and enlist the help of my Facebook friends to share their best tips as well. I ended up with so many strategies that I had to divide the material into two parts!
This article will cover where to get dry erase boards and how to use them in a whole group setting. The next article will focus on small group strategies and management tips.
Where to Get a Classroom Whiteboard
Maybe you’re already thinking that you can’t afford a full set of dry erase boards. However, I want to dispel that notion right now!
Dry erase boards are amazingly affordable when you make your own or purchase them with grants. There are also a number of creative alternatives that work well, too.
Store-Bought Dry Erase Boards
Most teacher stores sell dry erase boards and markers; however, a class set can be pricey. Fortunately, you may be able to obtain funding for an entire set through organizations like DonorsChoose.org, Adopt-a-Classroom, or from school business partners.
The advantage of store-bought boards is that they are often double-sided, with one blank side and lines or graph paper on the other. Some companies like teacher-created Kleenslate Concepts can even customize them for you with handwriting lines, graphic organizers, or music lines.
Homemade Dry Erase Boards
To make your own set of dry erase boards, visit a home improvement store and buy a large sheet of white shower board. There may be a charge for having it cut into rectangles or squares, but if you go at a time when the store isn’t busy, you may be able to sweet-talk them into doing it for free!
One 4’ x 8’ board will be enough for thirty-two 12” x 12” square boards. Sand or tape the edges to protect little fingers. Tip: Bring a dry erase marker with you and test it on the board’s surface before you buy it. Some boards work better than others.
Alternatives to Dry Erase Boards
If you absolutely can’t obtain real dry erase boards, try one of the following alternatives:
- Plastic dinner plates
- A piece of card stock inside a sheet protector
- Plastic menu covers
- Laminated sheets of card stock
- Your students’ desktops – although they won’t be able to hold them up to show their work.
The whole class strategies below work particularly well for subjects like math, spelling, vocabulary, and language arts where you can break the material down into bite-sized chunks. Using dry erase boards makes the entire lesson effective, interactive, and fun.
I start by writing a problem on the board and everyone solves the problem on their own boards without help. When finished, they turn their boards face down. Then I say “Show Me!” and they flip their boards over for me to review. Since my purpose is to assess readiness and background knowledge, I reveal the correct answers but I don’t take time to explain how I solved the problems. This quick check enables me to start my instruction at the right instructional level.
If our previous day’s lesson is essential for understanding the new concept, I’ll start with a few review problems. I’m careful not to point out individual errors in front of the class, but I do review the problems and answers to make sure everyone is ready to move on.
After introducing the lesson briefly, I begin posing problems of increasing difficulty. I always start with something easy that everyone should be able to handle and I work up to more difficult content. I alternate a few minutes of direct instruction with a few minutes of individual white board practice, always checking to see if my students are ready for the next step. Teaching this way allows me to keep instruction moving quickly when students grasp the concepts easily, or slow down when they need more time.
After I present each problem, I move around the classroom while the students are working to see how they are solving the problems. If I notice that a student is having difficulty, I make a point to walk over to that child while he or she is working, offering help as needed. If I have a teacher assistant or parent volunteer in the room, I can ask the adult helper to do the same.
Daily Quick Checks
At the end of the lesson, I use the dry erase boards to assess how the class as a whole is progressing. I write 4 to 6 problems on the board and set a timer for 5 minutes or an appropriate amount of time. As students finish working the problems, they put their boards face down and raise their hands. When I come over to check their work, they quickly show me their answers. After the timer goes off, I check the remaining boards. Then we review and discuss the problems and answers as a class to correct any misunderstandings.
This informal assessment lets me know what types of problems to assign for homework and where to start my instruction the next day. Each week, I give at least one paper and pencil graded quiz for my records, but these daily formative assessments give me the immediate feedback I need for planning.
Opting Out of Homework
I frequently excuse students from doing the lesson homework if they scored 100% correct during the daily quick check. They love this, and it motivates them to do their very best work during on daily assessments. I simply check off their name on my homework chart so I’ll remember that I excused them from the assignment. Why should they have homework on something they already know how to do perfectly?
Want a sneak peek at some of the strategies I’ll be sharing in my next article? You’re in luck! My Facebook request for dry erase board tips received over 100 responses in just a few hours and I compiled the best of them into a booklet. You can download Terrific Dry Erase Board Tips for free from my Teaching Resources website.
Apparently, using dry erase boards is not a lost art after all! What are your favorite ways to use dry erase boards in the classroom? Share in the comments section!
Read Part II and Part II
Teaching with Dry Erase Boards: Interactive, Effective & Fun (Part II): Learn six guided practice strategies for using dry erase boards.
Teaching with Dry Erase Boards: Interactive, Effective & Fun (Part III): Learn helpful tips for managing and organizing dry erase boards.