I have always been a fan of students working at the board ever since I was in high school. I can still hear Mr. Wolfram say, “Sara! Take your row to the board!” In my own classroom, 35+ years later, I knew I needed to get kids up and working.
When students are up, they take advantage of the opportunity to learn from one another. They also practice critiquing the work of others; they learn from watching and doing with others in a way that doesn’t happen when seated. Students also see that there really are multiple ways to solve the same problem. I needed to get all 31 students up at the same time–fast–and for little or no money.
I started thinking of surfaces that students could write on with dry erase markers. I thought of pieces of vinyl, but I couldn’t find anything that was shiny at a reasonable price. I decided to try a shower curtain from Dollar General. It wiped off…if wiped off right away, but it was a bear to get clean without fluid once the ink fully dried. That was strike two. I found some old laminated posters. The backsides of those worked. They were easy to attach to the walls, doors and bulletin boards with fancy duct tape and they didn’t take up a huge amount of space. They were also free. I also decided to use the window in the back of my room as a writing surface. That is absolutely the best surface of all!
With the surfaces up, it was time for logistics. I recently added seat numbers to my student desks to help with the seating chart. (That’s the green and blue thing in the upper right corner of the panoramic pic. I like to change seats at least quarterly, seating students who need the most support and supervision closest to where I can see them at all times.) I also have calculators assigned to students that correspond with their seat numbers. Hit by a rare stroke of genius, I decided to assign students to white board space so I am using my numbering system for that too. By assigning spaces, I make sure I have students who need the most support in the prime board spots. I also make sure to stagger my students by ability so they can support one another in a positive way. Students are also more productive when I decide where they stand.
The classes are now in the process of training to get to and from the board spots efficiently and quietly. There are still individual white boards available at the desks when we want to work with shoulder partners or if a student needs to be seated for some other reason.
Now every day, students come into my room and ask, “Can we do white boards today?” Highly engaged, enthusiastic students? In eighth grade? Yes.
Drops mic. Walks off stage.