I dearly miss having whiteboard walls in my classroom. They were cheap, thin whiteboards installed on the walls turning dead space into active pods of discussion and collaboration. (and with so much space, sometimes work from a number of classes could be left over time for reflection and/or revision) Back in the day I could have students spread out in small groups sharing ideas in small groups that could be confidently shared out as we went through a variety of brainstorming, planning, analytical, and peer review activities. The monotony of ‘desk life’ was broken. So what was I to do when I found myself without my beloved whiteboard walls?
The nearest dollar store saved the day - the kind that has large, but portable whiteboards for 10 dollars. Though not like the seemingly endless space of a whiteboard wall, my classes could do the same activities, read around the room. One unplanned bonus was the mobility of our new whiteboards - students could step out into the hallways, cafeteria, and the nearby playground if the younger students weren’t outside.
Here are some of the activities I and my colleagues have done that were enhanced with whiteboards.
Any subject - Creating a definition for a concepts, processes, etc. Students continued on with developing their definition by doing further research.
Any subject - Taking notes from video. Students watched three different videos on the same topic and then determined what were the consistencies and inconsistencies with the content of each video.
Elementary Math - Addition and subtraction with game pieces. One of our Grade 1 teachers had students use a worksheet with whiteboards and small animal pieces to do the math problems, visually.
Debate - Four corners debate. In this activity, students were given a controversial prompt and had to choose one of four ‘corners’ (options) in the room. Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. Students with similar opinions could discuss their views and write them down to present their group thinking. This activity is great for the timid. They feel safe that others share their opinion, and can refer to the whiteboard when called upon to speak.
Economics - Determining market forces in a Hawaiian vacation. Students were taught the economic concepts, and given a scenario for application. Note that they had a graph and text to explain their thinking.
History - Analyzing a primary source for the origin, purpose, content, value, and limitations. Each group was given a different primary source from the same topic of study and then presented.
History - Writing the key ideas for one group topic in a jigsaw activity. Jigsaws are a common activity in all subjects, but having reference to the whiteboard was useful for students to discuss and record their thinking before going back to their initial group.
History - For and Against Arguments. Why drop the atomic bomb? Students were given the two perspectives to research and later present. In the future, I may have students research the implications for the countries involved. (in particular the USA, Japan, Russia)
Social Studies / Individuals & Societies - Video recording script prompter. Students had prepared an election campaign commercial. With a 60-second time limit, one or two whiteboards was enough for each group. Moreover, they learned to use whiteboards as cue cards rather than reading a memorized script, helping students practice being succinct as well as presenting a prepared ‘script’ more naturally.
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