A while back (actually a long while back), I wrote that our small white boards are one of my favorite things to use in the classroom. In recent weeks, I've been reminded how great these tools are.
These boards have been the source of some of our recent literacy play. They allow children to explore and experiment without the "stress" of being permanent. Mistake? Erase and go at it again. The boards can be a great way to relieve stress - just scribble away for a few minutes.
I have enjoyed watching children use the white boards for their versatility. Here's one of my friends working recently. He stayed working at the table for 30-45 minutes. (He did little else that morning.)
He drew a picture of someone. He told me a brief story about this person. He colored in all the open areas. (Developing narrative skills.) Then he erased.
He began to print words. He printed some of his favorite words. (I know they are his favorites because he writes them frequently.) I was nearby, talking to another child and working with them.
"Mr. Scott," my friend said, "I don't know how to spell entertainment." We talked about that for a minute. I asked if he wanted me to write in on another white board and he could copy it. He agreed. I slid the word over to him.
"Hey," he said, "it has 3 Ts!" I replied, "And it has 3 Ns." He looked again. "And 3 Es," he continued. "And 1 R, 1 A...." He continued through the rest of the letters that we not mentioned. (More literacy play!)
He added the word to his board. He drew around the words for a while. He erased one word, then another, then another. (Developing more control over his fine motor skills.)
I had to move to other places in the room. I noticed my friend still sitting at the table working. His hand was moving back and forth, like he was scribbling. I walked over. He was coloring in his latest work.
I watched. He looked up. I said, "I have seen that before. Are you drawing something that you've seen before?" He said yes. I left him alone to work.
Later I was back at the table where he was still working. I noticed that he was writing numbers. He had started at 1 and was writing them in order. He noticed me and began saying the numbers as he wrote them. (Developing numeral and sequence skills)
He continued to write. Sometimes he said the number. Sometimes I said it. Then a I made a mistake. I said the wrong number. "No," he said. I corrected myself. We continued in this way for a while. Sometimes I would say the wrong number (out of sequence). He would giggle and I would correct myself. Sometimes I would say a nonsensical number (forty-eleven, seventy-J). He would giggle and tell me no. I would correct it.
At one point, the board was full. He flipped to the other side (also writable surface) and continued.
We reached 100. He continued. He wrote to 109. Stopped. Sat for a moment, thinking. He wrote 10 and thought. I said, "One hundred ten." He wrote a 1 in front of the 10. (Huge surprise for me. That's good thinking!) He continued to 113. The board was full. Both sides.
We showed Mrs. Cindy was he had accomplished. He erased the board. (Sorry, no pictures. I was too involved in what we were doing.)
"Now what will you do?" I asked casually.
He wrote 114 and continued on for a while. Then we had to clean up.
I love following a child's lead in what to do. That's not always feasible or possible. In many cases we must redirect or refocus.
But small white boards are magical. They allow children to do whatever they choose. They can draw. They can write words and stores. They can practice number skills. They can explore their own ideas.
Best. Tool. Ever.