25 ways to use Mini White Boards (MWBs)

Post date: Aug 14, 2016 4:36:16 PM

I case you haven't heard me say it before, I love, love, love, love mini-whiteboards (MWBs)!

So much so, that, when I originally got involved with the latest primary maths scheme Operation Maths, I asked the folks at Edco straight away if they would consider incorporating MWBs as part of the free ancillary resources that would be provided, to which they very kindly agreed!

This is also not the first time I've written about MWBs here; about two years ago I wrote about the versatility of MWBs as part of a larger series of posts on mental maths entitled Going Mental.

For those of you who are avid users of MWBs already, you're probably nodding in agreement when I say they are one of the best ways (if not the best way) to encourage the active participation of all the class, while also being a great way for the teacher to get instant feedback (aka formative assessment!) and guide them where to go next. I have found them to be invaluable; you can quickly assess understanding, immediately address any misconceptions, identify children who require more reinforcement, re-teaching etc.

Below are a list of some ideas and tips to get the most out of MWBs. Whether you have inherited a class set but are not too sure how to use them, or you're heading back to a brand, spanking, new set of Operation Maths books, complete with a free MWB per pupil, or you've already been using them for years, I hope you might find some inspiration in this list.

And if don't have a set of MWBs, but would like to get your hands on a FREE class set, please stay tuned till the end, where I'll give you all those details!

  1. Write-hide-show: the teacher asks a question, to which the children write then answer/response on their MWB, hide it (can be upside down on desk) and then show it to teacher when called upon (I sometimes will use "aon, dó, trí, taispeán dom"). Coordinating this so that it all the MWBs are shown at the same time, means that children are less likely to wait to see what another has written and then write that response as their own. Similarly, allowing sufficient time before the "show" stage allows the children who might not be as quick to respond as others, to be fully included in the activity. It is not necessary for the children to each have a MWB, I find it quite effective to use these in pairs, with both children taking turns at writing.

  2. Write-hide-show with a book: Irrespective of subject, this works best if you can access a digital version of the text in question and display this on your IWB (works best if the children aren't looking at their own books, only up at the boards, as it's easier for you to check that they are focused on you and the task). Then, using suitable tasks from the book, you can use the boards for some fast-paced answering.

  3. Write-hide-show with the IWB: Using the MWBs in a similar way to above, the teacher can show sites, games etc on the class IWB, to which the children respond on their MWBs.For example, you could display any of the links below to which the children could respond:

  4. Video clips could also be used in this way ie play, pause, ask questions, then write-hide-show on MWBs. If you have adopted Operation Maths, you also have access (via www.edcodigital.ie ) to a whole series of videos entitled Write-Hide-Show Videos where the video asks a question, allows time for a response and then automatically plays the next segment. The other set of videos that accompany Operation Maths, Maths Around Us, also play in a similar way and are ideal to use in conjunction with the MWBs.

  5. Stimulating talk and discussion: MWBs are especially great for stimulating mathematical discussions eg I asked 5th class to show me 40% as a fraction, some children wrote 40/100, others 4/10, others 2/5, then we discussed the validity of the answers, ie "same value, different appearance".

  6. "Show your thinking": The children can use quick jottings to explain how they arrived at a certain answer. The MWBs are less structured and easier to use than maths copies and easier to change if you want to amend your ideas.

  7. Spellings: If using a spelling book with your class, on the first day of the unit, before the children even look at the list for that week, call out each spelling in class, do write-hide-show in pairs and compare the various answers. Usually, there will be a couple of misspellings and there can often be a great discussion about why they were misspelled, was there anything tricky about the words etc. I would usually highlight to the children the words that were tricky to spell, as revealed by their efforts, and then I'd remind them to be mindful of these. A variation on this would be to call out a clue for the spelling, as opposed to the spelling itself, thereby developing vocabulary skills also eg "This is where you can go to watch movies"....cinema.

  8. Writing numbers and/or letters: with younger classes ask them to write the letter g/the number 18 etc on the board for quick assessment of their ability to recall and write the letters/numbers

  9. Ordering numbers: Arrange the pairs with MWBs into bigger groups (eg I have 15 pairs usually, and I arrange them into 3 groups with 5 boards/pairs in each group). Give each board in each group one of five letters (eg A, B, C, D, E) and give each pair a different instruction (A's write 8 thousandths as a decimal, B's write one quarter as a decimal etc). Finally ask them to stand out in a line and order themselves, smallest to largest or largest to smallest.

  10. Alphabetical order: In a similar way to ordering numbers, give each pair in each group a different word to write down and then ask them to stand out as a group and order themselves alphabetically

  11. True or False/Fíor nó Bréagach: again can be done with any subject. The teacher calls out a statement and the children respond with the written word , or for more speedier solution, a tick or X drawn on the MWB.

  12. Open-ended questions: The teacher gives the answer, eg 45, and the children write suitable questions that match the answer on their MWB. These could easily be collected and brought up to the top of the class for discussion and display.

  13. Symmetry: One student draws an image (eg an irregular 2-D shape) on their MWB. Their partner must put their MWB on the desk alongside the one with the image and draw the mirror image for the original. The can be repeated but with the second board directly below the first board so that the line of symmetry is now horizontal as opposed to vertical.

  14. Bar models: This is one of the key problem-solving strategies used in Singapore Maths and a key strategy also in Operation Maths. If your pupils are not very familiar or comfortable with bar model drawing it can be a great idea to draw the bar models step-by-step with the children i.e. the teacher draws on the classroom board and the children draw on their MWBs. Another way that this can also be done is to use the Thinking Blocks site and get the children to respond by drawing the bar models on their MWBs

  15. Quick fire estimations: estimating should be quick responses and not take as long to produce as a full calculation would; otherwise they're not efficient (see this post for more on this). To practice these quick fire responses, you could quickly display a calculation on the class board (eg using a digital textbook, an image of a worksheet or use an the inbuilt notebook/scrapbook programme to write up a calculation yourself) and then hide the calculation (eg use the no-show button on your projector remote) while the children quickly jot down estimated answers. These should then be compared and discussed, with reasons given as to why some estimates are more reasonable than others, before then agreeing on the most reasonable estimate(s).

  16. Step-by-step to show algorithms: if you are teaching some of the standard algorithms (eg the long division or long multiplication method) the MWBs can be handy to allow the teacher and class to do it together, step-by-step, with the children holding up their MWBs at every suitable juncture to check what they have done to that point. This way potential mistakes may be picked up quicker and addressed before they begin to occur repeatedly.

  17. Sentence building: The MWBs can be very handy to use to make sentences in any language (one word/phrase on every board) which can then be jumbled up for a children to put back in correct order. Or for writing, vocabulary development etc, the children can be asked to change one board for an alternative word/phrase that is also suitable. For older classes, each board may have its own full sentence of a larger passage of text, which also jumbled up and re-ordered.

  18. Quick word lists, rhymes, number facts etc: If the teacher has sufficient MWBs, he/she can use individual boards to record a word list/number facts list that may have been developed (eg words starting with ch, ending with ell, number bonds of 10 etc) so that it can be kept and referred to over the subsequent days before being replaced with a different list

  19. Score keeping for games: the children can quickly jot down the scores/point to keep a tally.

  20. Rainy day activities: Have MWBs available if the children have to stay in at lunch. They can use them for games of tic-tac-toe or hangman or just to simply doodle on them!

  21. Team-teaching and/or station teaching: It's always a good idea to keep some MWBs handy when you want to show an individual or a group something at their desks; saves you going back up to the board. If I'm involved in station teaching/team teaching, I usually keep a small bag with some whiteboards, markers and a sock (see below) ready for this very purpose.

  22. Brainstorms: if every child is asked to write a word, sentence etc on a specific topic, the MWBs can ensure that every child gets involved.

  23. Prefixes/Suffixes: give the children a prefix or suffix (eg un- or -able) and children have to write as many words containing these on the MWBs as possible in a minute. When the time is up go through the lists and each child gets 1 point for every correct answer or 2 points if they have a word no-one else in the class has - this encourages them to try to think of more original words.

  24. Silent communication: For a specified time the children must tell their groups about a given topic (eg what they did at the weekend or their hobbies etc ) without talking and only using the MWBs to communicate. Encourage them to be succinct and clear so that it doesn't become too drawn out.

  25. Play Pictionary: use a current word list, or list of vocabulary (also works as Gaeilge) and get the child in a group to draw an image for the word on a MWB. The rest of the group must successfully guess the mystery word.

Other Tips:

  • It's not essential to have a MWB for every child; one between two would be sufficient.

  • Add white-board markers to the book list for every child; in the same way as if their pen ran out of ink or they lost a pencil, they will be expected to keep and replace markers.

  • Old (washed!) socks make great cleaners for the boards and nearly every household has plenty of odd socks.

  • Store the MWBs at the children's desks so they're ready to go when needed.

  • Some teachers prefer to have packs with MWB, marker and cleaner all in together , which they collect afterwards so as to monitor the materials; although I have generally found that less time efficient and prefer instead to have them at the desks.

  • MWBs are ideal to use as part of the oral and mental starter using any of the ideas above as well as many other ways.

  • When suitable, always clean off boards after each use as any writing left on the boards for long periods can stain them

If you need to buy some (more!) MWBs I highly recommend this set available from Farrell-Coy, Longford town, Co. Longford. I have this exact set myself and, at €30 for a set of 30, they're great value (they will also post nationwide for approx €3 extra p&p). You could have one MWB between every two children and have plenty of spares for other activities. They also have a special on white board markers.

And with thanks to Bernie and Agatha at Farrell-Coy, they have kindly given a set as a prize for a lucky Primary CPD follower!

To be in with a chance to win, all you have to do is like this post on my facebook page. The winner will be randomly chosen from all the "likes" and will have their pack of MWBs posted out to them.