Six Novel Approaches to Using Your Classroom Dry Erase Wall
If you’re a teacher who has a premium dry erase painted wall in your classroom, you’ve undoubtedly been in front of it many times taking notes during a problem-based learning (PBL) session, drawing a diagram to supplement a verbal explanation, or simply listing the main points presented in a lesson. In such cases, your dry erase wall serves as an invaluable tool for recording and communicating ideas and images to your students in a large, easy-to-see format.
Regrettably, however, the ways in which dry erase walls are used in the classroom are often not especially original or creative. Generating mind maps, writing lists and outlines, and making drawings and graphs are the go-to dry erase wall activities for most teachers and students during the typical school day. However, it’s possible to use this classroom staple in much more imaginative and unusual ways to enhance the process of teaching and learning. Here are six novel dry erase wall strategies for your consideration that can add variety to your standard set of teaching techniques and hopefully increase your students’ excitement and engagement in learning.
1. Switching Note-taking Roles can Re-energize a Group Brainstorming Session
Instead of giving all of the responsibility to yourself or the designated note-taker during classroom brainstorming sessions, why not try exchanging roles throughout the class period? Having students hand over their dry erase marker to a fellow student can be an effortless way to liven up the course of a brainstorming activity and introduce new perspectives to a mind map or a starburst diagram being created on your dry erase wall. This technique also teaches students to adjust and get used to other people’s learning processes, thus improving their skills at partnership building and teamwork.
2. Turning the Tables Offers Students a Chance to Collaborate More Powerfully
As an alternative to continuously turning your back to students when writing information on your dry erase wall in class, it’s more productive to “turn the tables” and engage everyone in the teaching and learning process. Premium dry erase paint can transform any smooth flat surface in your classroom, such as a table, your desk, or students’ desks, into a blank canvas for writing and drawing.
When a number of dry erase painted surfaces are available throughout the room, your students can gather around to collaborate and become part of the teaching and note-taking process by writing down their ideas, adding comments, and discussing lesson material as a group. In this way, student-to-student relationships will be fostered, and brainstorming sessions will become more dynamic, engaging, and interactive, leading to productive teaching outcomes in any subject from math to language arts to history.
3. Make Note-taking a More Inclusive Experience for Students with Post-its
When acting as a note-taker during a brainstorming session, it can be exhausting and frustrating for a teacher to have to deal with the steady flood of ideas and questions coming from eager students. However, by combining a mind map that’s generated on your dry erase wall with personally written and edited post-it notes from the whole class, the activity of note-taking can become more wide-ranging and democratic, as all of the students have a chance to express their ideas and participate on an equal basis. In addition, by using this approach, everyone in the class gets the opportunity to be part of the note-taking activity while you still function as the central note-taker to guide the process along.
This technique works well to enhance student understanding, as it may often be challenging for a class to assimilate and respond to all the ideas being recorded on a complex, multi-tiered mind map. But using multi-colored post-it notes allows for students to add their own color-coded ideas to the wall and thus more quickly orient themselves to the complex thought processes and layers involved in a large mind map.
4. Turn the Use of Your Dry Erase Wall into a Digital Experience
Technology has always had a great deal to offer for the field of education, and these days many teachers are embracing electronic whiteboards in place of traditional framed whiteboards as go-to classroom teaching tools. However, not every facility or school system has the kind of budget that can handle purchasing expensive high-tech equipment such as interactive whiteboards. Also, electronic whiteboards can be hard to operate for teachers who lack strong technology skills or have not been trained in how to use these devices. Another problem is that in some classroom situations, it may be difficult for students to see and use interactive whiteboards effectively due to glare and other factors.
But a unique and less complicated way to digitize the whiteboard experience for your students is available for little cost, namely, the use of a dry erase painted wall in conjunction with a video projector as an instructional tool.
By using your video projector to project images onto your dry erase wall instead of a conventional projector screen, you can construct an exciting interactive learning environment in the classroom where visuals become supplements to your regular note-taking activities. In this way, your verbal explanations during lessons will become clearer and more engaging, and a new dimension will be added to your daily presentations that students are sure to appreciate and enjoy.
Focusing the class projector on the part of the dry erase wall you’re using to present lesson material will provide you with plenty of opportunity to create mixed media presentations and teach complex ideas in various subject areas through a blend of notes, videos, and even statistical data when appropriate. The low-gloss sheen of premium dry erase painted walls allows them to serve as excellent projection screens, so that clear visibility is always ensured for your students during lessons.
5. Spelling Bees and other Games for Younger Students Provide Variety
Dry erase walls are ideal to use with younger students with whom you can hold games and contests such as spelling bees and scrabble. Students are more likely to retain information like the proper spelling of English words when they write them down by hand, especially on a vertical surface such as a dry erase painted wall. Writing and drawing on vertical surfaces has been shown to enhance students’ learning ability and psychomotor development in a number of ways.
To hold a spelling bee, divide your class into groups of three or four, call out words that you’re currently studying, and allow the students to take turns spelling out the words on your dry erase wall. Turn the activity into a friendly competition by offering the winning group bonus points or a small reward for their efforts.
6. Capturing the Contents of a Day’s Lesson is a Great Way to Preserve Notes
While leaving at the end of the day or at lunchtime, many students use their phones to take pictures of the classroom dry erase wall as a reminder of the topics discussed or to provide them with notes when studying for tests. In such cases, readability can be an issue, but as always, there are apps to address this problem. Multiple scanning apps are now on the market that can turn your students’ dry erase wall photos into easy-to-read PDF files to make life a lot easier and more organized for everyone.
These are just a few ways to use whiteboards in the classroom. Not only are whiteboards a great way to engage students, but they’re cost-effective and better for the environment.
Students often leave the classroom taking pictures of the whiteboard as a reminder of the discussed topics during readings or for an overview when studying for the exam. Readability is an issue, though. But, as always, there is an app for that! There are now multiple scanning apps available that will turn your whiteboard pictures into easy-to-read PDFs that will make life a bit more organized.