By Kalena Baker
I really don’t know what I would have done if I had to teach in a time before whiteboards and markers. They were essential to my classroom – so essential that they are one of my 9 Must-Haves for Upper Elementary Teachers. We didn’t just use them on a daily basis in my classroom – we were using whiteboards in the classroom at least five times every day!
Benefits of Using Whiteboards in the Classroom
So, why did I use whiteboards so often in the classroom?
Increased Students Engagement
Dry erase markers are just more fun than pencil and paper. A 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade student will always be more excited about doing their work with a dry erase marker.
Allows for a Quick Assessment
Having students complete a math problem, write an answer, or explain their thinking on a whiteboard was my favorite way to quickly assess student work. I would walk around the classroom or have the students “reveal” their answer (hold it up facing me), and I could easily see who was struggling – or if the entire class was struggling and I needed to reteach. When students write with pencil, it’s hard to see everybody’s answers all at the same time.
Allows for a Quick, Unplanned Activity When You are Interrupted
Teachers are interrupted all the time in the middle of lessons. Phone calls, unplanned guests, or behavior problems that need to be immediately addressed waste valuable classroom time. And students that are left alone without a task for a few minutes can quickly become out of control.
Giving students an assignment to complete on their whiteboard doesn’t require any advance planning. Have students illustrate one of their vocabulary words, count by multiples of 7, or list as many two syllable words as they can. This will keep students on task and learning while you take care of the interruption.
Easy to Erase Mistakes
Writing with dry erase markers is less permanent. With a quick wipe of an eraser, all mistakes are gone. This makes for a safe learning environment, where your struggling students or your students that want everything to be perfect are more willing to make mistakes.
Although there are a few disadvantages to whiteboards – mainly the cost of dry erase markers – the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Amazon often has a sale on 12 or 16 packs of dry erase markers, so I would try to stock up then.
Whiteboards, Dry Erase Markers, and Classroom Management
If using dry erase markers and whiteboards is going to be a daily activity in your classroom, then coming up with thoughtful procedures and teaching them clearly is important.
Here are some things to think about:
Where are you going to have students store their whiteboards and markers? Will they have easy access? How can you store the materials so that students do not have to get up out of their seats every time you want to use them?
One of the main benefits of using whiteboards and dry erase markers is that they provide for a quick activity or a quick assessment. If it takes a long time for students to get the materials, then it is no longer a benefit.
Community Markers vs. Personal Markers
Will students share the dry erase markers as a class (community supplies) or will they use their own personal markers that they brought? How will you handle it when students do not provide enough markers to last the entire year? How will you handle students with inferior brands of dry erase markers?
Personally, I preferred for students to get to keep their own supplies. However, this caused too much trouble and too much wasted time. I decided to just provide students with markers all year. They were such an integral part of my classroom that it was worth the cost.
Taking Care of Dry Erase Markers
How will you teach your students to take care of the dry erase markers so that they last as long as possible? What do you consider appropriate uses for dry erase markers? Will students be able to use them to draw in their free time? Will you allow students to do things that waste the ink in the marker, like write really unnecessarily big? Upper elementary students still need direct instruction on how to take care of school supplies!
Kalena Baker is the founder of Teaching Made Practical, which offers resources for upper elementary teachers, www.teachingmadepractical.com.