Interactive Whiteboard Lessons – Best Practices

Posted on August 10, 2008. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, High School, Instructional Coaches, Interactive Whiteboards, Middle School, Teachers |

by Tim Van Heule

Freshly waxed floors, sharpened pencils, and back-to-school packets… it’s that time of year, again.

It’s also time to start thinking about elements, basic or advanced, that can be present in your interactive whiteboard lessons – Promethean, SMART, etc.

There are some misnomers regarding interactive whiteboard lessons; I hear them often. “Oh, those colorful lessons may work well in the elementary classroom, but I don’t think they will work with my secondary students.” Or, “This works really well in my secondary classroom, but I’m not sure that the elementary students would be able to handle it.”

I’m not one for trick questions, but I do like to ask one question when I work with people on interactive whiteboards – “What elements of an elementary or secondary lesson are proprietary to their respective levels?” In my opinion, elements in an elementary lesson should also be present in the secondary lesson, and vice-versa.

Sharing written information, objectives or notes, with the students on the interactive whiteboard is the best way to get started, but the goal should be not to use the interactive whiteboard as a glorified overhead projector. Again displayed information is an easy way to get started using the board in the classroom, but it shouldn’t be the end goal. Filling the board up with notes and information can overload the students, and takes a great interactive classroom tool and turns it into nothing more than a static board.

Lessons on interactive whiteboards need to be “interactive.” Lessons can contain teacher made activities, or activities that are part of the software. Both Promethean and SMART have vast resources available, therefore, there is no reason to “reinvent the wheel.” Matching and sorting activities can be easily created, and information can be hidden and revealed using shapes or flash-based content, all of which can be found in either Promethean or SMART’s resources. Both companies have their own tricks that can also increase the interactivity of the lessons.

I’m not claiming to the be the expert on the presentation of information on interactive whiteboards, I just know what worked well in my classroom. I took a varied approach, beginning with brief displays of information, guided practice and independent activities, and finished with some form of assessment. Students should be up at the board, working independently, in groups, as a class, etc. The teacher should never be in full control of the board throughout the lesson. It’s important to ask yourself,”how have I engaged my student’s today?”

Example lessons are available upon request for those who are interested.

Here’s to a great 2008-2009 school year…

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2 Responses to “Interactive Whiteboard Lessons – Best Practices”

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I am a secondary teacher who has been using a
Smart board for three years now. Many ask me ho
a board can be interactive. AS noted; there are
a range of hide and seek and mix and match type
activities that are either provided, or easy to simply create.
As an English teacher; matching up suitable vocab for characters and events in texts becomes incredibly interactive. The ability to move words; clone them if we feel they go in more than one place encourages active debate about the merits of words and prhases and greatly enhancing understanding of texts. The broad range of activities provided in the software means it is eeasy to keep classes on their toes; constantly providing someting new. They are keen to interact with it themselves; even the shyest will eventually come forward.
The biggest issue regarding their use is ensuring effective training – I am sure way too many are in fact used as glorified overheads!

have you created anything to do with sorting words? I would like to enter new words each week and have students sort the words into categories. Do you have anything?


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