Whiteboards and Math

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Over the summer I changed classrooms.  It was a lengthy process, but great, as I was able to reorganize my classroom.  I moved into a smaller room with less cabinet space.  To boot, the room also didn’t have any carpet.  Starting with a blank slate caused some anxiety at first, but it also gave me time to think of different design ideas.

Over the summer I received many great ideas from my pln about classroom design.  I knew I wanted to add additional group stations and lay out the space so kids could utilize all the different locations within the classroom.  I’m not an HGTV expert by any means, but I thought that some changes in my design might be helpful.  During August, I ran across a few Tweets from TMC about vertical non-permanent surfaces.  It even has it’s own tag – #vnps.  Interested, I researched this a bit and found some great news.  My summer book study and the TMC crowd both confirmed that these seemed to help students.  Thankfully, I ran across a Tweet about getting whiteboard from Home Depot.

I went over to Home Depot a couple days later and bought two 2 x 5 boards.  I wasn’t really sure where I’d place them. Over the next few days I started unboxing my materials and started planning out student learning places.  I put in a work order to hang up the vertical whiteboards and they were installed a couple days early.  Maintenance drilled the boards into the wall and I was a happy camper.

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I labeled the stations the next day.  I explained that the whiteboards were used so students could brainstorm and show their thinking.  Immediately, students were excited to use these new shiny boards.  The quality was decent and they easily erased.  It was interesting how quickly students picked up their Expos markers and got to work.  Some use them solo while other students like to use them in groups.

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My only gripe is that I wish they had a magnetic component.  Some students want to hang up their papers on the board and show their work on the board.  I’m still looking into options to what I can use to attach the work to the board without buying some magnetic paint.  Still checking out alternative ideas.  I’m looking forward to seeing how students use these surfaces throughout the year.


Personalizing Classroom Design

“I’ve seen first-hand how teachers are making an effort to “modernize” their own classrooms. Some teachers have ditched desks and moved towards tables.”


I believe that a positive classroom environment plays a significant role in the classroom. Students need to feel safe in order to take risks and contribute to the class. That safety can take on many different forms. During the beginning of the year teachers often use strategies aimed at constructing a classroom community.  A classroom that is built on a firm foundation gives students opportunities to express themselves and have a voice in classroom decisions. This type of classroom environment often pays dividends throughout the year as students are vested in their classroom and learning.

The environment isn’t just isolated to how students feel, but it’s also established in the physical make-up of the classroom.   How classroom space is utilized has been throughly discussed over the past few years. Students are expected to work collaboratively, research, present, and create content to showcase understanding. How are students able to engage in these types of learning activities in a traditional classroom?

I’ve seen first-hand how teachers are making an effort to “modernize” their own classrooms. Some teachers have ditched desks and moved towards tables. Other teachers have decided to use a variety of stations in their classroom designed for students to work collaboratively. More often than not, classrooms in elementary schools are generally composed of individual desks formed in table groups. This isn’t always the case, but most elementary schools that I visit have this type of model.  At my school most student desks are combined to create groups of three, four, or even five. Students are expected to work in groups in the classroom so the teachers are putting in place what works for their individual class.

One amazing teacher at my school has moved away from the whole individual desk idea and put tables in her classroom. The tables used to have chairs, but the chairs were replaced with a different type of seating.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

She found an amazing deal at the local Target and stocked up.  Students sit on the ottoman and actually store their supplies inside.  From what I see, this type of thinking has created less clutter for students and allows students the freedom to move their “seat” wherever they desire. The ottomans don’t screech against the floor and you don’t have to worry about someone accidently injuring themselves or others with the metal legs on a typical student chair.

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This type of thinking can help others move towards modernizing their own classroom. There’re so many possibilities, but teachers need to find the best fit for their students.

How are you changing your classroom to best meet the needs of your students?

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