Using mini whiteboards

One of the most useful things I have in my classrooms is a set of pieces of laminated white paper. They are a cheap version of the mini whiteboards you can buy in stationery shops, easily replaced when they get tired, and more environmentally friendly than paper – you can even laminate used paper with one blank side, if you’re really committed 🙂

Because I have a bit of a thing about wasted space, I also often print out a “desk mat”. This has activities and information on one side, which the children can refer to, while the other side is kept blank so that it can be used as a mini whiteboard, thus making use of all the available space…

Download a PDF of two desk mats, one at a lower primary level, the other aimed at upper primary: Desk Mat

Sample page from the PDF file

Sample page from the PDF file

So, what can you use mini whiteboards for? LOADS of fun stuff (and some boring stuff too. Friday morning spelling tests anyone?) For older children and adult learners, there is a great post here about ten uses for a mini whiteboard, including a brilliant idea for a variation on jigsaw reading.

Boards Up!

Ask a question and give groups thirty seconds to write down their answer. When the thirty seconds is over, call “Boards up!” Learners (obviously) hold their boards up so you can quickly see who got the answer right. You can give points if appropriate. Questions can be about whatever you are teaching – vocabulary, grammar points, spelling…

Grammar Auction

Give each group a certain amount of fake money (this can be in the form of printed notes, or simply written on the board.) Write a sentence on the board that contains an error. In groups, learners decide if there is an error, what the error is, and what the correct sentence should be. They write their answer on their boards, and an amount of up to 75% of their available ‘money’.  When time is up, check their answers. Groups that are correct win the money they bid. Groups that are incorrect lose the money they bid. Repeat the process as long as you like. The winning group is the one with the most money left over at the end of the game.

Spelling test

As in a normal spelling test, learners write down the words as you say them. When all the words have been written out, learners swap their boards with each other. Repeat the words, and ask for corrections. If the word on the board is incorrect, the learner erases the incorrect part (e.g. “h a u s e” would become “h _ u s e”. Serious mistakes can be erased entirely.) At the end, each learner takes back their original board and corrects any errors by looking at the missing letters and recalling the word.

Listen & Write

Teacher dictates (for example) a series of numbers; the learners write them down. Simple as that. The teacher can quickly check if they are correct; erase and begin again.

Pictionary

Each group sends one learner to the teacher, who shows all the representatives a word. The representatives run back to their groups and draw the word on the board silently. The rest of their group tries to guess the word. First group to tell the teacher the word wins the round.

Listen & Draw

Learners work in pairs, sitting with their backs to each other, each with a mini whiteboard. Learner A draws something on her whiteboard – not too difficult but not overly easy, like a house. Learner A then, without saying what the picture is, dictates it to Learner B, who draws it on his whiteboard. When the dictation is finished, the learners compare their drawings. An example dictation for the example of a house might be: “Draw a big square. Now draw a triangle above the square. Draw a rectangle inside the square. Draw a small square next to the rectangle.”

Lesson Review

At the end of a lesson, ask learners to write down one thing they learnt about, or something they enjoyed. Or as feedback, ask them to draw how they felt during the lesson – for example, a happy or sad face. They can either hold them all up together, or hand them back to you as they leave the room.

Or…

Just use it in place of scrap paper. If a student asks you how to spell a word, ask her to write it on the whiteboard the way she thinks it’s spelled, then correct if necessary. If a student asks you to translate a word from his first language, write the new word on the board. If students are writing a text, they can try out draft sentences on the board and check with you before writing it into their books.

I’m sure there are a thousand more uses for mini whiteboards – let me know if you have used them in some other way!

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