This is the time of year when teachers’ focus turns to classroom design. The #peelmathchat this week posed this question
— Shelly Vohra (@raspberryberet3) August 17, 2015
At the top of my list are my whiteboard tables, and judging by the response to my tweet, there’s a lot of interest in them.
Several years ago I attended a session with Gallit Zvi and Hugh MacDonald. Inspired by how they had used shower board from Lowes to use as whiteboard tables, I decided to do the same. I bought the boards at Lowes, got them cut to fit my 4 x 6 tables (2 free cuts meant my family members all purchased a board) and loaded them into the van. Once at school, I taped the edges with duct tape and was good to go – or so I thought. What I had picked out was not shower board. Although white and shiny, anything written on the boards wouldn’t erase off.
My solution was to head to Home Depot and purchase whiteboard paint. Perfect! Now we were ready to roll.
My students and I LOVE our whiteboard tables, and use them in all kinds of ways. They are perfect for problem solving and calculation activities during Math. Before beginning writing tasks, students can quickly draw a mind map of ideas, then get to work. When kids ask how to spell a word, I just jot it on the table. A favorite lesson this year made use of the Discovery Education Spotlight on Strategies (SOS) Paper Chat as my class tried to determine our class favorite for March Book Madness 2015.
As you can see, it’s easy to capture the ideas by taking a quick photo with our class iPad, my phone or my camera.
Working on the table means it is easy to share thinking and ideas which spur conversations. I’ve discovered that using the whiteboard tables encourages my students to be creative. During class discussions, I will often find that individuals have created sketchnotes of the ideas covered. Students who are reluctant to begin pen and paper tasks don’t seem to have that hesitation with the dry erase pens. Earlier this year, a principal asked me about our use of the whiteboards, so I asked my students why they like using them. Here are a few of the responses:
Having the moveable boards has worked really well. We are not allowed to paint our tables, so now I have my whiteboards while the table tops are protected. I also really appreciate their portability. Groups can pick them up and take them to the hallway or elsewhere to use as needed. We’ve also been able to use them to record information during Skypes, as a backdrop for photo shoots, and as scenery for plays and Reader’s Theatre (decorated by students to fit the theme).
Interested in setting up these tables in your classroom? I’ve learned that when using the dry erase paint, you need to be sure to use a foam roller in order to have the surface smooth for writing on. This year I discovered that there is a clear dry erase paint available, which opens up opportunities to have colored table tops that complement the classroom design. Since buying my paint at Home Depot I’ve also seen it at Walmart and Michael’s (remember the 40% off coupon!). In a perfect world with unlimited budgets I would use Idea Paint, but am very happy with this alternative. I’ve found that on some of the boards the corners have been bent as students have bumped up against them. It would be a good idea to round off the corners to start with. I like to repaint my boards to begin each school year fresh and clean. After spending a long time trying to peel off the duct tape edges once, I now have my students take some time in the last week to get the tape off and then use Goo Gone to remove any adhesive. Then they are ready for a fresh coat of paint!
We all love our whiteboard tables, and wouldn’t give them up! I know that there are many more ideas out there for their use, and would appreciate any you have to share.