Your students spend a lot of time looking at the front of your classroom, so it is important to make the most of that space. This is valuable real estate, so think carefully about how you want to use it.
In most classrooms, the central feature is the whiteboard. If you are one of the lucky few that is blessed with an Interactive White Board (sometimes called an Activboard or SMART Board), then you may want to have a look at this excellent site on Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom, which includes all kinds of ideas for uses, tutorials, and software downloads.
A document camera (sometimes called an ELMO) is another amazing teaching tool to have. If you have one, then you may want to take a peek at this site, which offers 100 ideas for using a document camera.
Even if you have these fabulous tools, you probably also have a traditional whiteboard, and in fact, many teachers only have a whiteboard. Hopefully, yours is big and magnetic. Here are some thoughts on making the most of it:
- Colored dry-erase markers cost the same as black ones, yet so many teachers just have black and red. Colors engage your students and can help make a point. Just stay clear of yellow and light shades of orange and pink.
- All dry-erase pens are not created equal. Find a brand you like and stick with it.
- If your school does not budget enough for dry-erase pens, then have each child bring a pack at the start of the year as part of their school supplies.
- I’ve heard that storing dry-erase markers vertically, caps down, extends their life. Consider mounting a marker holder on the whiteboard try for that purpose.
- Keep non-dry-erase markers away from the whiteboard (seems obvious, but…)
- Make sure you have lots of strong ones. Great for displaying specific lesson visual aids, posters, charts, etc. You can get some with hooks, too.
- Make a set of magnets with each child’s name. Make sure they are big and easy to grab for the younger grades. These can be used to split kids into groups, take attendance, show the results of a poll, track individual students, show classroom jobs, etc.
- Rather than writing the daily schedule on the board each day, use strips of tag board (sentence strips work great) to write the names of the subjects, laminate, and put magnets on the back. Now you just have to move the subjects around each day and maybe add the times.
More Ways to Use the Space
In addition to the alphabet, roll-up screen and maps, clock etc., you might also want to consider some of these ideas:
- Table space with commonly used teaching supplies
- A tall stool
- Banners above and/or below the white board with your favorite quote or saying
- Charts or posters you’d like to be in the front of your students’ minds, e.g., classroom rules, steps to the writing process, editing symbols, classroom jobs, etc.
- An extra whiteboard, flip chart, or giant pad of paper on a stand
- You can make a class dictionary by labeling a library pocket with each letter of the alphabet and then putting them below the whiteboard. Add index cards with the corresponding letters for each pocket. When students need a word, they bring it to you (or another classroom helper) to write the word on the card. By December many of the words students need are already on the cards. When a student needs a word, he simply gets the card, copies the word, and puts it back for the next user.
Every so often, sit in one of your students’ desks and take a look at what they see when they look at the front of your classroom. Ask yourself: Is it interesting and appealing? Is it too busy? Is it too plain?
Be sure to check back next week for ideas about how to make the most of the back of your classroom.
You may also want to check out the other posts in the Creative Classroom Series.