Keeping Students Engaged
in Learning with Marker Boards
on task is often a problem both for new and veteran teachers.
Administrators want to see students engaged in the learning
process. Even though your questions are well thought out
and your objectives are clear, good lesson plans can sometimes
go astray and students can become disengaged.
say you want to check for understanding on last night's
homework. You ask students to name the chemical elements
that make water, spell words on this week's spelling list,
practice math problems, or you want to see if they can
draw the graph of y = 2x - 4. They all sit there and some
people raise their hands while others are off in their
own worlds...unconnected to the lesson. You thought they
would all be eager to participate and instead they've learned
to work the system to generate as little work as possible.
How can you keep all of your students actively involved
in the lesson as opposed to silently observing or chatting
with their friends? Marker boards can help engage them
in meaningful learning experiences.
love to write answers on the board, so give everyone an
individual marker board to record their answers on. When
you ask a question, everyone gets to answer. You can walk
around and give feedback and when they complete their work,
they can hold up their boards for you to check. But, you
don't have a classroom set? Here are some ways to get a
set for your students to use.
you have a small budget....
purchased individual marker boards are available but are
very expensive. However, you can make individual white
marker boards by starting at your neighborhood home improvement
store or lumber yard and asking for melamine, tile board,
or white board. Usually these boards come in sheets that
are 4' x 8' for around $9.00. If you have the store cut
them into 12" squares, you'll get 32 nice sized individual
white boards. The edges of these boards will probably need
to be smoothed out with a little sandpaper. You might be
able to get them sanded at the store when you tell them
that they are for your classroom. If you have vocational
education classes in your district, you might be able to
get the teacher and/or the students to give you some help.
If this is not an option, it could be a good opportunity
to make those helpful parent connections. Large (2 gallon)
zippered plastic bags will help protect the boards from
getting scratched and will extend the life of the boards.
you have friends in the right places...
good material to use for marker boards is called polyboard.
Polyboard is polycoated cardboard. Yard signs from political
elections are often made of this material. The backs of
these signs might work nicely for your set of marker boards.
Ask candidates to donate old ones to your classroom. You
can also check with sign companies to see if they would
have scraps that might be big enough to make your boards.
Polyboard is used for screen printing jobs also.
you have NO budget and want a little flexibility.
heavy poster board, file folders, or other cardboard, you
can customize your "white" boards. You make different sets
for different reasons. For instance, if you want white
boards for math, I use a colored file folder and glue
sheet of white paper to one side,
piece of graph paper on another side,
piece of dot paper on another side, and
piece of paper with just a set of coordinate axes with
markings on each.
customize these folders for multiple subjects or specialize
them for one subject. Then run each file folder through
your school's laminating machine. In fact, run them through
twice. Now students have 4 different specialty white boards.
They fold easily and can be kept in students' desks or
you want flexibility and have a small budget.
one more option for a quick marker board. Plastic page
protectors purchased at an office supply store make quick
and easily changeable marker boards. Just slide in a piece
of heavy card stock to help make them rigid. If you want
lines to write on, add a lined piece of paper. If you want
students to use number lines, coordinate graphs, or polar
graphs, slide in a paper with these graphs on them. You
can make all different kinds of templates with your copy
machine. The sheets can be stored in the page protectors
and put in a three-ring notebook.
think you want to use personal dry erase boards, add dry
erase markers to your supply lists for students. I suggest
that students have at least two colors and that they buy
the thin dry erase markers. Non-permanent vis-a-vis markers
will work well on plastic surfaces but they won't erase
quite as well without liquid. Either type of marker can
tend to be very expensive and will need to be replaced
throughout the year. Even if students bring markers, keep
some on hand in case a student is unable to afford one
or in case of an emergency. Ask businesses to donate some
dry erase markers to your class. If a student is always
losing his markers, have him/her use a scratch piece of
paper and a pen, pencil, or crayon until he/she brings
a marker to class. The student will get the hint faster
CLEAN socks make great erasers. They not only work well,
but they also extend the life of your marker boards. Paper
towels will work but often scratch the surface or the plastic.
Marker board erasers tend to be big and are expensive.
Here's another hint: drill a hole or punch a hole in the
corner of the marker boards. If you have a piece of string
or a clean shoestring, tie one end to the sock and the
other end to the marker board. This way students have an
eraser available at all times. Once or twice a semester,
use some glass cleaner and give each marker board an extra
have students keep their marker boards in their notebooks
or in their desks so that you don't have to waste time
passing them out each time you want to use them. If you
only have a classroom set and they are not as portable,
have a basket in your room where students can easily pick
one up when they come to class and drop it off when they
leave. Here is a great class management tip when using
marker boards: Make an arrangement with your students that
if the basket appears in a particular spot in the room,
that is their cue to pick one up on their way into class.
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