Back to Basics – Mini Whiteboards

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Lo-Tech Learning

Right, that’s enough high-tech stuff for a while – I want to share with you another tool that I love to use – one that you can’t download, rather you have to carry  in to the classroom. Mini-whiteboards – they are really simple, A4 sheets of laminated card/plastic, that often come in sets with dry-wipe markers and sponges as erasers. As simple as that sounds, they can really change the way a class works. Googling around to find links it seems that these mini whiteboars are used a lot by Maths teachers, having stolen Tarsia from Maths teachers, I’m starting to think that they have the coolest activities – think I’m going to start following them around!

You can buy ready prepared mini whiteboard sets, but I reckon you must be able to make them fairly easily and save yourself some money.

The key to this resource is the fact that unlike paper any thing can be rubbed off and written again, easily, which seems to be really conducive to group or pair work – getting learners to work together to construct a text/word/sentence. It’s less permanent than writing on paper, so learners are more keen to experiment and correct each others’ work.

Here I am going to go over a few ways that You could use mini whiteboards – but I’m sure there are hundreds more – please comment and contribute any ideas or experiences you have below

Making standard language class exercises more collaborative

Liven up a plain old grammar exercise by getting learners to work in pairs/groups with a mini whiteboard between them. Rather than silently completing a worksheet learners will discuss/argue/fight over what the correct answers should be – hopefully leading to deeper engagement with the task – it’s then easy for the teacher to correct as they see fit, and learners can copy down the correct form for their notes. This tactic could also work very well for competitive spelling tests, etc.

You could also get groups to peer correct each other, having learners in groups or pairs writing something, or completing an exercise before swapping boards with another group for correction. Again, group work takes the pressure off individual mistakes.

Ask questions whole class and get learners to write their answers on the boards and hold them up. Again, it’s probably worth getting students to do this in pairs or groups… You’ll get more discussion and it takes a bit of the pressure/responsibility off individuals.

Visuals

You could also unleash your students’ artistic side by using a picture dictation… Describe a picture to your learners and get groups to try to draw the picture that you are describing. You can play Pictionary or ask learners to work together to make their own picture dictionary.

Further ideas

Hopefully this post has inspired you to run out and try using mini whiteboards in your lesson – they really have an impact on the dynamics of any session and are really flexible… I’ve found some links with ideas here:

http://www.somerset-secondarystrategy.org/displaydocs.php?id=882&type=public

http://teachingtechniques.boston.ac.uk/show_me_or_mini_whiteboard_cards.html

https://www.ncetm.org.uk/community/thread/9232

http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp?theme=mag&docid=157648

What would be really great though, would be if you were able to add your own ideas below… Go on, you know you want to!

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25 thoughts on “Back to Basics – Mini Whiteboards

  1. What a resourceful post! It’s full of creative ideas for collaboration within the classroom.
    Marisa

  2. You are absolutely correct! We use mini white boards all the time in my district. I agree that they seem to be most popular in math but can be used all the time. I see teachers using them with read alouds, direct instruction, pair review, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, you name it. The idea is to pause and allow each child think time prior to choosing one child to answer the question. And, older kids love these boards too. PS you can make them yourself using glossy shower board from the hardware store. Great post! Good teaching tools never go out of style

    1. Yeah – I’ve mainly used them with adults – and they love them… Totally agree with the DIY approach as well… I reckon there’s probably a link between the techniques used in maths and language teaching – possibly a greater focus on skills as opposed to knowledge? don’t know about that one….

  3. They are great for spelling. A student asks you how to spell a word while they are writing for example. Get them to try to spell it themselves on a mini-whiteboard. If it’s right, rub it off and get tehm to write it again (to check it wasn’t pure luck and to consolidate) .If it’s wrong, write the correct version below and get them to identify the differences. Talk about these differences or the reason for the spelling. make links with other words. Write the word again with the differences highlighted with a different colour pen. Get the learner to look carefully. Clean the board and get the learner to write it one more time.

    Johanna

    1. That’s a great way of developing learners’ literacy skills – I think the non-permanence takes some of the fear out of writing – mistakes are no big deal if you can’t see the crossing out!

  4. Haven’t used mini-whiteboards in my lessons yet, but I think they would be good as they aren’t as big as normal whiteboards (obviously).

    I often get my students to write on the whiteboard (vocab, ideas, mind maps, etc) but maybe they get put off but the sheer size of a whiteboard, and maybe also the fact that everyone can see what they’re writing straightaway.

    Mini-whiteboards would mean they can write without worrying about everyone watching them.

    1. Can really recommend them – I had to cover an E2 class – not knowing the students I assumed that they would be nearer E3, so prepared a fairly high-level E2/E3 class. Problem was that they were really at the other end of E2. Mini whiteboards rescued me – as they got the students collaborating a lot more, and they could do a lot more.

  5. Simply great how we can do a lot with so simple resources!
    Thanks for the ideas and keep your great work!

  6. Some great ideas here!

    I use mini-whiteboards from time to time in class for spelling activities. I bought mine from Poundland – very cheesy & about as cheap and cheerful as they get, but they do the trick!

    If you wanted to go even more low tech, you could just laminate a piece of card & use non-permanent bingo markers…

    One of the activities I like using mini-whiteboards for is to play ELT Countdown with students.

    I take a big bag of cards with letters on them into class, and arrange them face down in to separate piles of vowels and consonants.

    The students work in groups, and each group gets to pick a set number of vowels and consonants from the piles (depending on the level).

    I give the students 5-10 minutes or so to see how many words they can make from the letters that they’ve chosen, and the group that has written the longest correctly spelt word down on their whiteboard wins the round.

      1. Yes, definitely worth giving it a go – always goes down really well when I do it, whatever the level.

        Don’t watch that many gameshows to be honest, though I have played a version of Blockbusters (showing my age, now!) with students, where I draw a grid on the board with letters and they work in teams to guess the words.

        I suppose you could modify that activity as well by getting them to write the words on the mini-whiteboards and hold them up…

        On a related note, I discovered an online version of Countdown the other day (via @TeachingIdeas) that could be used as a whole class IWB activity:

        http://bit.ly/cCJHi5

  7. I have used this strategy in math class as a way to practice coordinates. Print a coordinate plane on card stock and laminate it for a similar effect. You can dictate coordinates to the students or challenge them to come up with their own to challenge each other.

    1. Are there any other maths resources that you think work well for language development? I think both subjects deal with abstract concepts, so there are probably similar ways of relating these to learners.

  8. I love using mini whiteboards (or mini dry erase boards). We do a lot of work in a group, on a rug, and rather than have kids bring post-its, pencils, & something to lean on, a marker and dry erase board is great for “stop and draw a picture of what this story makes you imagine” or “stop and draw the difference between big and enormous” — etc… I’ve also used it in math or as quick spelling tests/games. So glad you shared this 🙂

    1. Those sound like some great techniques – I hadn’t thought of them allowing you to have classes in different kinds of spaces, but I suppose you could use them out on the field, or in the café or wherever, really….

      Thanks for your input!

  9. Yes, they are a great low-tech tool and students love using them.
    Here in Taiwan at elementary school they seem to come with a set of lines for writing practice on one side and blank on the other.
    I have used them for students to practice learning to write new letters of the alphabet before putting them into their exercise books. It makes their books neater and they gain in confidence.
    They are also good for pair work. An example is answering jumbled words or sentences and being quick to display their response by raising the board above their heads.
    There are many uses for this simple tool.
    Thanks for the other sharings also.

    1. Yeah – they’re great for learners whose first language uses a Non-Roman script – or those who are not literate in their first language.

  10. I love using erasable whiteboards in the classroom. Their uses are endless! I like the idea of using a sponge as the eraser. I have my students bring in an old sock that they use as an eraser 🙂

  11. “I think the non-permanence takes some of the fear out of writing”, yes, you nailed it, Phil ! this is the beauty of mini white boards. I tried them recently after reading Chiasuansong’s post. Used it to consolidate phonetics in French : I write a short poem on the board (5 lines) and (after elucidating any vocab problems) read the first line, then they repeat in turn (those who wish to), then I erase the line and read the second one, changing the tone of voice, intention, gestures, thus showing how the meaning is modified, and inviting students to change their tones too (Apollinaire is great for this for he wrote without ponctuation):my aim is to show the link between written words and pronounced words, and to help fluency. When we reached the end of the poem, and the board is blank, then they can all recite the poem with me, by heart. At this point they feel very proud. Then I use the mini board, and ask them, in pairs, to write the poem again. I go around to help of course. Then I ask them to choose one word from the poem, and write a sentence with it. Then they must work with the group next to them, look at their sentence and make the necessary changes to create a small coherent text. We start with two sentences, but the more creative students will spontaneously write some more.

  12. Exellent resource, I worked with them in the UK and I have just introduced them in Mexico, where none knows about them. I will do my best to share MWB in Mexico.

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