Published 9th January 2017
As teachers, we rely on many different resources to help us through our lessons. Interactive whiteboards, audio-visual equipment, realia, the internet – the list goes on and on, but we shouldn’t forget about the trusty, traditional weapon of choice for teachers over the years. Flashcards and board games have been entertaining EFL students for as long as we can remember, and, of course, our trusty whiteboards.
In most of our EFL classrooms, we have a whiteboard of some kind. It may be the old-fashioned chalkboard (a blackboard, if you’re old enough to remember those!) or it could be a new interactive whiteboard. Whatever it is, it is sure to be a very important piece of equipment in your classroom as a teaching tool.
Teachers need whiteboards for so many things: for the all-important presentation stage of a lesson, to write down any language that comes up in the lesson, to record the date, to play games, and to note down errors, just to name a few. Writing on a whiteboard takes practice but once you get the hang of it and your handwriting is neat and legible and you use colour cleverly, it can be a thing of beauty.
Not surprisingly then, have you noticed how much your students love to use the whiteboard too?
Whether it’s drawing pictures for games like Pictionary, brainstorming phrases, or categorising vocabulary, students seem to love standing at the front of the class using the board. Maybe it makes them feel a bit like the teacher, maybe it’s a power trip, or maybe they enjoy being creative, but whatever the reason, the majority of students enjoy writing on a whiteboard. It makes sense, then, to put this enthusiasm to good use.
Which is why we have mini whiteboards.
(Okay, it may not be the reason why they were invented, but we’ll adapt them for our own purposes.)
Mini whiteboards are exactly what you think they are. They are miniature versions of big whiteboards; basically, A4-size boards which can be written on with whiteboard markers and wiped clean. And if you don’t have a few of these in your classroom, make a plan and get some (or make some!), because here are some fun activities for mini whiteboards you can use in the classroom.
There are quite a few variations of this mini whiteboard game and they are all effective and enjoyable.
The class is divided into pairs or groups and each team is given a whiteboard. The teacher describes a recent vocabulary item and the students must write the word on their mini whiteboard. After a certain amount of time, the teams must flip over their boards at the same time. Each correct team is awarded a point.
An alternative version includes the teacher drawing the target language on the board and the students writing down the English word for it – but the success of this depends on the artistic talents of the teacher!
Read more: Our Favourite Vocabulary Games
At the beginning of a new topic, instead of introducing or discussing the theme, let the students brainstorm the topic on their whiteboards. Brainstorming should be a very free activity so don’t give too many instructions, but give the students time to write down words or phrases or even draw pictures related to the topic. Let this be done in pairs so that each student can get a turn using the whiteboard. Afterward, the groups can compare their whiteboards and explain their mindmaps.
This can also be a useful activity as a needs analysis for a new class. Students can draw a mindmap of their English goals and learning styles and explain them to their partners, while the teacher monitors and takes notes for planning purposes.
This is a great activity to review a particular grammar structure you have been working on. Hand out the whiteboards to teams of two or more students. On the big class whiteboard, write down the elements you need in a sentence – anything you want. For example, 9 words, 1 phrasal verb, 2 prepositions, the present perfect. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. The teams must write a sentence including all of those items. The first team to complete a sentence according to your specifications (and it has been checked by you) is the winner.
Mini whiteboards are a great addition to any EFL classroom. They are small, easy to store, and easily available for a quick activity when you have a few spare minutes.
In fact, mini whiteboards are so useful and there are actually so many whiteboard games you can play in the EFL classroom that we thought we’d add in a bonus game for you! When it comes to thinking of fun activities for mini whiteboards, you can be as creative as you want, and your students will thank you for it!
Divide the students into pairs. Each pair must have a whiteboard. Give the class a topic, such as your weekend plans, a secret, or the last book I read, or you could give the students the first sentence, such as What are you up to this weekend?, Did you hear about Sarah? or I have just finished the best book!. The students must take turns to have a “conversation” about that topic or starting with that line on their boards. They do this by writing a sentence or two and handing the board to their partner who must write another sentence or two to continue the conversation. In this way, the conversations mimic real-life conversations on social media or Whatsapp. While they are writing, the teacher monitors and notes down any mistakes which can be looked at afterward, in a delayed error correction activity.
Read more: Effective Error Correction So you see, mini whiteboards can be very useful tools in the EFL classroom. With so many ideas of fun activities for mini whiteboards, why not add them to your arsenal of teaching instruments! Bring them out every once in a while, to add something different to your usual teaching activities.