I’ve been teaching at my school district for 19 years now, and can honestly say my colleagues are an extension of my family to me. I spend more time with them than I do with many of my actual family members. We share our triumphs and disappointments with each other, which creates a strong bond of love and support. During American Education Week, one fellow teacher in a higher grade than my own always has her students write a letter to one former teacher expressing their gratitude. She then sends these letters to the individual teachers as a personal keepsake that reminds me of the real rewards of teaching. I recently received this year’s batch of encouragement, and you might be surprised to learn that the one word my students consistently use to describe their time in Room 411 is…fun. Yep. The irony (for those who know me) is that “fun” is not one of my top priorities in life. I think work is fun, so I don’t tend to seek it in vacations, parties or special events.
Whiteboards with Students
I do, however, work hard to make learning fun in my classroom. Hey, subordinating conjunctions need some help in the “fun” category, especially to a 9-year-old! And, as much as I like the predictability of my routines, after 19 years…even I need to keep it fresh for myself. One way I inject a little fun in my lessons is by using small dry-erase whiteboards. I’ve been using these small whiteboards with my students for years. The advantages to this response rate technique are impressively extensive…
- Increased Student Engagement – no one gets a chance to “hide in plain sight” when I’m looking around the classroom to see everyone’s answers.
- Avoid the Copy Machine – I don’t even want to think about the hours of my life spent standing at a copy machine!
- Check for Understanding – don’t underestimate the need to check for understanding. You may think the lesson was a total hit, but successful educators know that looks can be deceiving.
- Reliable – ever plan to use some piece of technology in a lesson only to make a last-minute adjustment because it won’t work? Frustrating in the extreme. You never have to worry if the Internet connection is fast enough or the software updated with whiteboards!
- Affordable – compared to an iPad or a classroom set of books, whiteboards are very inexpensive with the added benefit of being durable, too. Check out this article for suggestions about making your own whiteboards.
- Fun – stop and think for a second. What is the first thing students want to do when you hand them a whiteboard and a dry erase marker? Exactly – doodle! Don’t fight it. I always give my students one minute of doodle time before and after every whiteboard session. It really “gets it out of their system” and we can focus on the lesson the rest of the time. Plus, it gives me a quick chance to make sure my lesson materials are ready to go. If I’m feeling goofy, I will use equivalent amounts of one minute. “Today, class, since you were soooo quiet and orderly when getting your whiteboards, I’m not going to give you just one minute of doodle time. Oh, no…I’m giving you two thirty-second sessions of doodle time. You deserve it!” Corny? Well, yeah, but it never fails to put a smile on their faces. That’s fun!