5 Ways to Engage Your Students with Whiteboards

July 20, 2015 by

Do you use whiteboards in your classroom?  I use mine all the time!  Why whiteboards you might ask?  Kids love them and when you put a whiteboard and marker in their hand you are very likely going to have their attention from the get go.   If you don’t use whiteboards already, it’s definitely something to consider!  Read on to find 5 different ways to use whiteboards to engage your students in their learning!

5 Ways to Engage Your Students with Whiteboards


Guest post by Christina Herner form Hanging Around in Primary

1.  Use whiteboards to practice important literacy skills.

Use Whiteboards to Practice Literacy Skills

We all do a lot of what I call “skill and drill”.  It is a necessary part of our daily life in a classroom. My question is this: Why do we need to use paper/pencil to complete these tasks?  I try to be very mindful of the paper I put in front of my students.  In my grade 1 classroom, we use our whiteboards daily to complete a lot of these tasks.  At the beginning of the year, we practice printing our names and letters using proper letter formation.  We practice printing our word wall words in sentences and writing contractions and their word pairs as an another example.  Regardless of your grade level, I am sure there are opportunities to practice literacy skills on a whiteboard.

2.  Use whiteboards to review sight words/vocabulary.

Use whiteboards to play games with the word wall.

This point is very similar to number one.  The word wall is an essential component in my classroom, and we practice reading and writing the words daily.  Do students need to write these words in a notebook/paper?  In my opinion not really.  It becomes monotonous.  However, if you use a whiteboard and find different ways to review and practice, then student engagement increases.  I have students partner up to do “find and print” with one student saying a word while the other is printing it on the whiteboard.  We play “Be a Mind Reader” with the word wall. I give 5 consecutive clues and students write their guesses after each clue.   In later primary classes or upper elementary, you could use whiteboards to review vocabulary.  You could give a definition and have students write the correct word or vice versa and write a definition.  Again the options are many.

3.  Use whiteboards during your Math time.

Use Whiteboards to Solve Math Problems

I use whiteboards during math constantly during small and large group instructional time, and during independent math and center time.  Students will often have their whiteboards at the carpet while I am teaching a lesson and work on solving problems on their boards along with me.  Often rather than having students share an answer to a question I ask I have them write it on the board and show me.  It is a great way to be able to show different ways of thinking.  You can easily ask students to stand up with their whiteboard and show how different ways students arrived at the same answer.  I find that by having them working along on their boards they are far more engaged in the lesson, especially if there will be an opportunity to share.

4.  Use whiteboards during your Guided Groups.  Use whiteboards during guided groups.

Whiteboards are a staple during my Guided Reading/Guided Math time.  We usually start off with some word work review on the whiteboards, and then move to a skill review.   I also have students record their thinking during reading so they can share their thoughts when we reconvene after students have had a chance to read the text.  Students can also answer comprehension questions on the whiteboards after reading or I have them do another followup task so that I can finish up with a particular students.

5.  No Whiteboards?  Page protector + Paper =  Instant Whiteboard

Page protectors + paper=Instant Whiteboard!

You don’t need to buy whiteboards to engage students.  You can make them in minutes with page protectors and paper.  As you can see I often create a particular organizer or math tool that I want to use and put it in a page protector for an instant whiteboard.  We put these on clipboards so they are stiff and easy to write one.

 A few more tips for effectively using whiteboards:
  • never use RED marker – it is very difficult to get off.  I stick with basic black or blue.
  • I use felt from the dollar store cut into rectangles as erasers.  I tried hot gluing the pompoms to the ends of the markers like I saw on Pinterest.  They were super cute to look at but they did not stay on.  #pinterestfail.
  • I use expo dry eraser marker spray but in a pinch hand sanitizer works awesome as well to clean your whiteboards.  The whiteboards in the pictures are made from shower board and are about 10 years old.

Along with embracing whiteboards, I have embraced technology and photographing student work.  There a number of apps out there that allow you to file and save student work digitally. I have used Sesame Snap and am going to be using IDoceo this fall as well.  I remind students to write their name on their whiteboard before I photograph so that I can easily go back and catalogue it.
I hope you will find these tips helpful as you prepare for back to school.  I am leaving you with a FREEBIE as well!  These printables are perfect for slipping in a page protector and using with your students for some whiteboard work.  Please click on the image below to head to my store to download them.

Addition Freebie! Counting on...

Christina Hermer is a 21-year veteran, with most of her experience in first grade although she has taught all grades from Kindergarten to Grade 4.   She lives and teaches just outside of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Christina can be found at Hanging Around in Primary Blog, and Teachers Pay Teachers.

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5 Ways to Engage Your Students with Whiteboards