ELA, small groups, and the interactive whiteboard: 3 tips everyone should know

ELA, small groups, and the interactive whiteboard: 3 tips everyone should know

Turning over the interactive whiteboard pen to a small group of students can require a leap of faith. Those things are expensive, and some of them can break if you look at them too hard. But the benefits of using the whiteboard as a center outweigh the risks. Here are 3 tips for creating successful small-group English/Language Arts activities for your whiteboard center.

1. Create rules for proper handling of the whiteboard and the pen.

Don’t turn students loose until you feel confident they can follow the rules. Have reasonable consequences if a student breaks the rules. Some ideas for IWB/pen guidelines:

• No real markers on the whiteboard

• Take turns using the pen

• Help other students use the whiteboard

• Return the pen to the holder when finished with the activity

Use a classroom management system, like ClassDojo, to identify good whiteboard behaviors. You can edit your list of behaviors to include IWB-specific ones, like “Gentle with the IWB pen.”


2. Automate your classroom management.

Keep students at the whiteboard focused by giving them clear instructions on how long they have before they switch centers. You can do this for the whole class, in fact, by turning on the timer feature on your IWB. In ActivInspire, you can set the timer to automatically start over so you can easily keep students moving through centers. You can also set it to automatically reset the whiteboard lesson, so you don’t have to come over and restart it for the next group.


3. Find (or make!) whiteboard activities that are good for groups.

Look for one with great drag-and-drop functionality or click-to-reveal buttons. This is GREAT for vocabulary work. You can quickly make an activity by copying and pasting sentences from a PDF worksheet, make a word bank by dropping in the text of the vocabulary words and then setting them to “clone” or “drag copies.”  Here’s a good example of an activity I created in about 2 minutes. If you have 3-5 pages of these, your students can take turns answering and work together.


You can also copy and paste text from a Word doc or website into your IWB page and have your students collaborate to annotate the text. In this example, students have underlined instances of repetition and circled words that indicate theme or main idea. (Keep in mind when you make your page that younger students won’t be able to reach the top of the whiteboard, so keep all text in the bottom 2/3 of the screen.)


Would love to hear any of your IWB engagement ideas for students — please comment below!