30 Simple Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards

No more chalk dust on your clothes or marker on your hands—and dozens of other ways the IWB can make your teaching life easier.

By Caralee Adams
Tips for Classroom Management

Tolerate some noise. When kids are getting up out of their seats to take turns at the board, there will be more commotion.

Get everyone involved. Although the student at the front may be answering the question, ask the remaining students to participate by giving a thumbs up or down, or have the class show you 1, 2, or 3 with their fingers to indicate the right answer.

Figure out a system for taking turns. Whether allowing the student currently working at the board to select a friend, drawing names using Popsicle sticks, or some other method, have a predictable way of handing off the pen or marker.

Beef up your other centers. If you are using your IWB as a center with kids taking turns, have the other centers also be active learning hubs, rather than expecting any one group to be quiet in the room.

Add lamps around your room. Since IWBs often require overhead lights be out, add some soft lighting so kids can see while keeping the screen visible.

1. Streamline the lunch bunch.
As part of the routine when they enter in the morning, have kids go to the IWB, find their name, and drag it to their lunch choice for the day-even if it's a brown bag.

2. Draw on books-really.
Use a document camera to display a book with a picture of an insect, for example. Then circle, draw, and label the parts of the insect to point out special features.

3. Jazz up calendar time.
Adam Ciraolo, a teacher in Surprise, Arizona, hides songs for his students-they might click on a flower for a song about days of the week. Or, they count down days while dancing the macarena.

4. Go on a field trip, without permission slips.
Find a website that gives virtual tours of art museums or any number of attractions and look at everything 3D, zooming around the actual room.

5. Teach real-life geography.
Use Google Maps to find the streets where students live. "It brings it to a personal level, and students make the connection," says Becky Ganong, a fifth-grade teacher in White Oak, Texas.

6. Collaborate on a class writing project.
Illustrate and write a book as a class on an IWB and use the Record feature to narrate the text. The possibilities are endless-pirates, princesses, pigs!

7. Scan in board games.
Use the IWB's built-in manipulative materials, such as computerized dice or money, to play games like Scrabble and Yahtzee on the big screen. This way everyone can play as a group.

8. Be a poet and know it.
Go to a website with words scrambled like magnets on a refrigerator. Then have kids come up to the IWB and move the words around to write poetry. (Try: thepixiepit.co.uk/magnets.htm.)

9. Demonstrate dissection.
Short on funds? Instead of having everyone dissect a frog or earthworm, use the IWB to show it. Then take pictures and allow students to come up to the projector to label parts.

10. Make a grammar center.

Invite small groups to do grammar activities with self-checking functions. For instance, have them drag common nouns into a box and proper nouns into a circle. When they drag to the wrong one, it bounces back.

11. Take a literature trip.
After reading a book, go to Google Maps and show kids where the story takes place. When Amanda Tucker's third-grade class in Johns Creek, Georgia, read about wonders of the world, they looked at the Statue of Liberty, drew a line to the Eiffel Tower, and so on. "It gives them an image of where it's taking place in the world," says Tucker.

12. Sort homonyms.
When learning vowel pairs, such as meat and meet, have kids use their finger to slide the picture to the correct meaning, with the computer giving immediate feedback if they've made the right choice. "When they can use their finger as the pen, they think it's magic," says Jessica O'Connell, a first-grade teacher, also from Surprise, Arizona.

13. Talk about writing.
Put up an example of stellar writing and highlight, circle, and star the strong verbs or good word choices that students suggest. Then, contrast it with a piece of weaker writing and ask kids for feedback, marking up the copy for all to see. "We are able to interact with the writing in a deeper way than me just reading aloud," says Tucker. 

14. Set a timer.
When you have an assignment or activity with a set time period, have an online timer count down and buzz at the end of the session. Kids learn to self-regulate, monitoring their own work, and it frees you up to move around the classroom to provide individual help.

15. Shape up.
Have students come to the IWB and match shapes or create patterns. Use colorful pictures of a turtle in an oval or a fish in a square. Add sound effects such as clapping and cheering to reward them for correct answers.

16. Trace it.
Find a website that provides words with dotted letters (try abcteach.com; click on Core Subjects, then Handwriting) and ask kids to use the whiteboard pen to trace the letters.

17. Host a game show.
Quiz your kids on any kind of fact by setting up a game similar to the show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Instead of paper, set up categories on the computer and have students use the marker to write in their answers for all to see on the big screen.

18. Get instant feedback.
Quiz kids on the main idea of a story and give multiple-choice answers that they need to use their clicker or active expression button to answer.

19. Text in your thoughts.
If your classroom has an active expression system, have kids type the answer to any question, such as an example of an adjective. "The cool thing is, the result pops into an Excel spreadsheet and I can pinpoint exactly where a student is going wrong," says Tucker, the Johns Creek third-grade teacher.

20. Study the periodic table.

Instead of having kids memorize a flat table on the wall, create an interactive one with video clips. When you click on a certain element, the class can see what potassium looks like and images of foods that contain it. Check out Discovery Education Science for Middle School at discoveryeducation.com/products/science/middle.cfm.

21. Diagram a sentence.
Write a sentence and discuss the parts of speech-but make it pop. Use text boxes to move around the words, or set it up so that when you click on a word there will be an animation.

22. Mix it up.
Develop a science lesson with mixtures and solutions in which you pull down tabs that show what happens when two or more elements are combined, suggests Jeff Samuelson, an instructional technology specialist at Birdville Independent School District in Birdville, Texas.

23. Use it for spelling clues.

O'Connell makes clues for each of the week's spelling words. Students click on a clue or a sentence describing the word. Then, students must spell the word. If it's correct, the board shows a cartoon of a soccer ball going in a goal and fans screaming.

24. Edit big time.

Teach students editing marks on an IWB, ranging from delete to capitalize to insert on an IWB, and take advantage of the highlight function.

25. Create a story web.
Read a story and use a graphic organizer to sort the various parts. Start with a circle in the middle. In the white space, write some details and have students pull the information into the circle that is correct.

26. Make an e-portfolio.
Students in the Liberty County School System in Hinesville, Georgia, showcase their work in pages they save on the IWB during center time. Examples from math, language arts, or social studies can then be shared with fellow students or parents, says Patti Crane, executive director of technology and media for the district.

27. Calculate on the screen.
Use the IWB to demonstrate how to use a graphing calculator on a large screen, while the kids are using their individual ones at their own desks.

28. Prepare your sub and collaborate with others.

Record your lessons on the IWB so a substitute teacher can step right in to take over your agenda for the day. If you have some successful plans, save the lessons and send the files to other teachers to swap best practices.

29. Save lessons.
Capture lessons to present to students later or post on your school's network for students who are absent.

30. Use the board for reflection time.
Wrap up the day by having each student write on the IWB something they learned.

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