How To "Whiteboard"

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How To "Whiteboard"

Just as there are numerous ways to facilitate learning in the classroom, there are numerous ways to effectively use whiteboards in the classroom.

A simple Fermi estimation.For those new to the idea of using whiteboards in the classroom, here are some suggestions to get started.  These only scratch the surface, though.  Browsing the resources on these pages and the web will quickly reveal depths of usage that have more to do with pedagogy than writing on a whiteboard.

  1. Just getting started?  Give each student a small whiteboard & marker, then ask a question.  Have them work a problem or draw a diagram.  When done, select students at random to explain their work.  Or, select boards at random and point out strengths of work and common difficulties.  Pictured to the right is a simple Fermi estimation question: "estimate how many pieces of chalk there are in US schools."
  2. Want more interaction?  Give each student a small whiteboard & marker, then ask a question.  Just a couple minutes in, tell students to switch whiteboards with their neighbor and finish what their neighbor started without erasing the original work.  Then have them share what they added and what they think their neighbors' thought processes were.
  3. Group work?  Give each student group a large whiteboard (or, have students create a larger area by putting their individual boards together).  Then ask a question for the group to work on together.  When done, have the group members circle what they think are the three most important things they wrote down.
  4. More group interaction?  Combine 2 and 3 above!  Have groups exchange boards and evaluate the others' work or circle the three most important things.  Then in a class discussion, see if the authors agree with what the other groups said.
  5. Into classroom polling?  You can use whiteboards as a low tech clicker.  Just ask a question, have the students "select" their answer by writing it on the whiteboard in big font.  Have them reveal their answers all at once.

Small Whiteboard Discussion Wiki

This wiki is a forum that discusses the role a small whiteboard could play in the classroom. Like any tool, it can serve only as a superficial novelty, . . . or as a pivotal tool that really draws students in, keeping them engaged and on task. Thank you Mary Bridget for this link!

Here's a whiteboard gem: ask students to draw what they think is going on inside a magnet. 


Then, after some discussion and exploration with materials (like magnetizing iron filings in a corked test tube and a long nail that can be cut), have them discuss with groups and whiteboard the question again!  Make sure their model accounts for how magnets can't ever just have a North or a South pole (you can't have one without the other . . . why?

From Physics Education Research:

Students at the college level generally hold the same initial ideas of the inner workings of magnets as ES children.  Why??  Mostly because they have not investigated "magnetism" in a systematic way, but also because they have not challenged or discussed with others what they "know" about magnetism.  It is really amazing to see a class move toward the domain model (pictured last) from incomplete models while sharing their ideas and laboratory experiences.  This level of understanding is attainable among elementary school students!  Whiteboarding alone won't do all of this for you, but it certainly can be a huge part!