Low-Tech Solution Reaps High-End Results

Posted on September 4, 2008

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I’d love for every student in my classroom to have a laptop. They don’t. In the absence of one-to-one laptops, I’ve been searching for ways to engage each student. Enter individual whiteboards.

Get Every Kid a Whiteboard

This summer I purchased a classroom set (30) of 16X16 whiteboards at Home Depot for less than $30-they cut the boards for me for no extra charge. I bought a mega pack of dryer sheets to use as erasers and added dry erase markers to my student supplies list.

Kids Love to Doodle

I’ve been amazed at the results: kids, even my eleventh graders, love to doodle.  Every student, even the ones who usually slink into the background, often lost in their own thoughts, a million miles from the activity of the classroom, are on-task. Wondering about the room, glancing at their whiteboards, I can quickly assess if students are mastering concepts. Since their work is bigger than when they write on paper, it’s easy to read from a distance, and they can hold it up for the rest of the class to see, a great way to share several student models with the class, having students learn from one another.

Whiteboard Activities

Today, I used the whiteboards in a mini-lesson on participial phrases.  Plopping  Don Killgallon’s Sentence Composing for High School under my document camera, I quickly explained what a participial phrase is, showed several examples, and explained how the phrase could be a sentence-opener, subject-verb split, or sentence closer-Killgallon’s terms. 

Students then used their whiteboards to practice unscrambling sentence parts of professionally written sentences (again, from Killgallon’s book) to create a complete sentence that incorporates a participial phrase. As they finished, they held up the boards for me to read. I was able to read every student’s sentence and have them verbally tell me if they used the participial phrase as an opener, subject-verb split, or closer. Beautiful. It certainly beats the dreaded grammar worksheets!

My next-door English teacher, Mrs. Weygandt, suggested I have students work in their groups to compose the sentences, each student writing a piece of the sentence then having the groups stand together to organize the parts. This would create a visual representation-not to mention get students moving-of the positioning of a participial phrase. I’ll try that next time.

More Whiteboard Ideas

I’ve tried several other activities with vocabulary and reading and writing workshop lessons. I’ll be sharing them in a series of future posts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas for using individual student whiteboards–a nondigital tool–in the classroom.

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