Category Archives: Classroom Design

Love Our Whiteboard Tables!

This is the time of year when teachers’ focus turns to classroom design.  The #peelmathchat this week posed this question

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.

group paper chat

goldfish paper chat1.jpg

paper chat collage.jpg

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:

draw on the table



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).

Recording questions and answers during a Science 20 Questions Skype

Recording questions and answers during a Science 20 Questions Skype

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.


From Where I Stand

September means a new leaf and a fresh start.  How lucky am I to be a teacher, and get that fresh start every fall?  I also appreciate the opportunity of having time over the summer to reflect and research the pieces I choose to reinvent for the school year ahead.

Moving into a new space over the summer has been my impetus to thinking carefully about classroom design.  I want to ensure that the physical arrangement of the room will allow for flexibility and choice.  I want it to be inviting, and have that Starbucks vibe – art on the walls, comfortable seating, cozy lighting, relaxed atmosphere…

I knew I wanted to create a gallery to display student work, and was intrigued by a tweet I saw earlier this summer.

I thought I could recreate the same effect, and was excited to stumble upon wooden frames on clearance at Michael’s (At $1-$2 even cheaper than the white mats!)

Our school has been faced with rapidly rising enrolments over the past few years which means that all available space in the school is used for learning, and room for storage is at a premium.  How could I create that Starbucks atmosphere with tons of plastic containers and supplies in the corner?  Then I realized that I could set up my gallery to not only provide an eye catching display, but also camouflage the space for those teaching supplies.  Hanging curtains in front of my numerous containers made a colourful backdrop for the frames.


I can’t wait to fill the frames with student art.  I know that our projects for Dot Day are going to look amazing displayed here!


Now when visitors walk into the room, the gallery is the first thing they notice.  They want to know how it’s been constructed, and move in for a closer look.  It’s only as they come right up close that they realize there are the bins behind. And then they have to look behind the curtain to see that pile of stuff.  Surprise!


So many things depend on where we stand.  I can choose to stand at the edge and focus on that sometimes overwhelming pile of stuff, or I can shift my viewpoint slightly and see instead how all that space can provide a blank canvas of opportunity.   Even as I took the pictures for this post, each change in my position revealed an interesting fresh perspective.

So as this new year begins, when confronted with those big problems I need to remember to stop and think.  If I shift my viewpoint, can I find the opportunities in the situation?  If I look hard enough, hopefully I will find that there is beauty staring me in the face.