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15 things to do with a whiteboard

1. Play a whiteboard directions game Blindfold one student and stand them near the board with a board pen. The other students have to tell them how to draw a line between two points on the board by the route you show them. 2. Play a blindfold joining up game This is like the Whiteboard […]

Written by Alex Case for

1. Play a whiteboard directions game
Blindfold one student and stand them near the board with a board pen. The other students have to tell them how to draw a line between two points on the board by the route you show them.

2. Play a blindfold joining up game
This is like the Whiteboard directions game, but students have to join two words or parts of a sentence on the board by listening to the instructions of the other students, e.g. drawing a line between “do” and “your homework” as quickly as possible by listening to the other students shout “up”, “down”, “left” and “right”

3. Cover and reveal
Especially if you want to use a complicated picture or long text on the board during a lesson, write it or draw it on the board before the lesson starts and then cover it with bits of blank A3 paper stuck up with sellotape or magnets. As well as saving time, this makes the students interested in what will be revealed when the paper comes off. Be careful not to smudge the whiteboard pen you have written on the board when you put the paper up or take it off.

4. Use a colour code
Having a system of using each colour of whiteboard pen for a particular use will help students understand and remember what you are teaching them. For example,when teaching grammar you could use red for the names of tenses, blue for the meanings, and black for the example sentences; or red for error corrections, green for new vocabulary and black for new grammar.

5. Write the aims for today’s lesson
Writing this at the top or side of the board before class and ticking each one off as you do it or at the end of the class can show students you are teaching systematically and that you have a reason for each thing you do in class. It can also help with revision and taking student questions at the end of the day.

6. Do a picture dictation
This is another drawing game. This time students sitting down describe a picture the student by the board can’t see and help them to draw the same thing on the board.

7. Use magnets
Most whiteboards are designed for magnets to stick to. This can be very useful for leaving up a copy of the answer key for students to check their own answers after class, putting up blown up A3 copies of pictures from the textbook to discuss before they open their books etc. If you can’t use magnets, sellotape is almost as good.

8. Have a drawing race
Students race to be the first to draw a picture of the sentence you say on the board, e.g. “There are a few apples on the chair”. To make it like a Board race, you can only allow each member of the team to draw one object that is mentioned in your sentence, e.g. one apple of the few apples, before passing the pen to a team member to continue the drawing.

9. Draw whiteboard plans
If you often run out of whiteboard space during lessons or find the information you write up is not well organised, try drawing rectangles on your lesson plan to represent the whiteboard at each stage, and then draw a sketch of how you want the board to look each time you change what is on it.

10. Step to the back of the classroom
Students are sometimes too polite to tell you that there are things that make reading off the whiteboard difficult such as reflections from windows and lights. Stepping to the back of the classroom while students are copying down what you have written can help you spot these things and any errors you have made,and make sure you aren’t standing in the way of anyone trying to see the board.

11. Write bigger
Writing as big as possible gets the students’ attention and is easier to copy down. If you are worried about running out of board space, you can always copy it down smaller somewhere else on the board later to make room for the new things you want to write.

12. Divide up the board
Even if you don’t want to have a particular system for each box on board, just dividing the board into 4 or so boxes of different sizes at the beginning of the lesson can really help with organisation of the things you write up. Things you can use the boxes for include errors you corrected, new vocabulary taught, homework and other administration, and student questions you are saving for later.

13. Draw bullet points
Just like a website page or a presentation PowerPoint slide, things written on the board next to bullet points or numbers are much easier to see and much easier to copy down into a notebook.

14. Take a photo of the board
Taking a digital photo of a finished whiteboard presentation can help you remember how you set it up next time you present the same grammar, can be emailed to students who missed the lesson, and can give students who are slow copying things down the idea that they could also take photos to check their notes with after class. You can also use the photo to think about how your board work could be improved next time, and to remember things you are using for memory games like the disappearing text game if you are older and so quicker to forget than your students!

15. Do the board work in reverse
A nice variation on how you use the board is to write up as much as you can of the things the students will need to read off the board before the class starts and erase each part after students have understood it and copied it down. As well as the impact of having a full board when they come in and then finishing with a clean blank board, it saves the time and lack of eye contact of when you are writing during class.

Written by Alex Case for
February 2008 | Filed under Teaching
There are links to more than 400 articles and 1000 worksheets plus 1500 blog posts by Alex Case on TEFLtastic blog.