Practical Tips for Using Mini-Whiteboards in a Mathematics Lesson

In this blog I will share some practical tips for using mini-whiteboards in a mathematics lesson.  I use mini-whiteboards nearly every lesson because they help the students show me the progress they are making.  When I understand what the misconceptions are I am able to address them in subsequent examples as part of my feedback.  After a few examples where we repeat this process I can confidently expect students to work independently in their exercise book. 

Handing out and Collecting Back in

I like to store mini-whiteboards in a clear plastic wallet along with a black dry-wipe pen and foam eraser. These are kept on top of cupboard near the classroom door. I give the wallets out as students settle during the starter activity which is often completed in their exercise books or on paper. 

Depending on why we’re using whiteboards students either have one each or share one between two.  More on this later.  By handing the wallets out as students work through the starter activity I get to quickly walk around the class to ensure everyone is on task.

I collect the whiteboards in either during the lesson while students are on task working independently or at the end while they are packing up.  It is important that I collect the whiteboards to make sure they all have the pen and eraser.

Encouraging Risk Taking

In my experience students are more likely to take risks in their learning if any self-perceived failure is kept private between the student and teacher.  For this reason I ask students to present their mini-whiteboards to me at the same time.  I explain that regardless of whether I agree or disagree with their working I will make no public comment on their work as I do not want to embarrass anybody. 

It is important students see that I use what they present to inform my teaching, not to critique their individual understanding.  Because of this students have the freedom to write down and refine their processing as any mistakes will be kept private.

Over time, as I gain their trust students are more likely to present a fuller explanation of their processing.  This is because they know the more I understand about what they can and not do the more relevant my feedback will be to them.

Peer Support and Differentiation

In addition to showing me the progress students are making mini-whiteboards are excellent for differentiation.  I will often arrange my seating plan to compliment student’s processing styles.  For instance, I will sit a creative thinker who lacks the written skills next to a more methodical thinker with good writing skills.  When I ask them to attempt a problem on mini-whiteboards I encourage the creative thinker to do the writing.  The creative thinker can only write on the board what they both agree to be true.  This helps the creative thinker to be more methodical while developing the reasoning skills of the more procedural thinker. 

This also works when pairing more able with less able students.  The less able student will do the writing so the more able has to carefully articulate their reasoning. 

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