Interactive Whiteboards in Primary Literacy Classrooms

Theme & level – Whiteboards, K-5th grades

This article discusses the use whiteboards in teaching literacy.  The study comes from South Australia.  The school has 530 students which are split up into 18 classes of new arrivals to the country who have limited or no English skills and 11 ordinary classes.  A significant portion of the population is Aboriginal students and over half of them come from non-English speaking backgrounds.   Five primary teachers discuss how they implement literacy programs through the use of whiteboards in their classrooms.

For second language students, having visuals and repetition of language facilitates learning of the new language.  Interactive programs extend students’ literacy skills from the direct teaching approach.  Small groups played literacy games daily with oral communication, questions & answers, plus more capable students were supporting new students.  The teacher can save lesson files to use again with another set of students.

Another teacher uses the whiteboard in teaching phonic awareness.  Words can be highlighted, circled, underlined and so on.  Pictures of words can be matched with words, moved around and made into rhyming lists if need be.  Syllables can be taught by highlighting, circling, and color coding.  Sound isolation activities can use the same method, allowing pictures of words to visually be shown along with lessons.  By using images, photos, and clip art, it makes class topics more real to students for all content areas.

In teaching functional grammar, a teacher used a simple whiteboard feature of having different colors (coding) for different parts of a sentence.  After language features were identified, labeled, and understood, class discussion between teacher and students were done in an informal way.  Students could come up to the board and run their finger along the words if necessary.

One teacher was able to teach author craft (choice of words) by showing a passage of writing and then having student substitute in some of their own words.  Students were learning the art of writing by being able to change wording, color coding, and manipulation of words if they desired.  The editing process was revealed in a powerful way through the use of a whiteboard.

NETS-S (#1-#4, #6) was being met by applying any existing knowledge to literacy and interacting with fellow students.  They would collaborate and evaluate new information to come up with correct answers.  They used critical thinking skills, made informed decisions, and used digital tools to enhance the process of understanding literacy.

NETS-T (#1-#3) was being met by engaging students to use digital tools to explore authentic problems/lessons in literacy.  Teachers adapted relevant learning experiences for the students through the use of whiteboards.  And teachers modeled knowledge and skills in providing learning with this digital tool.

This article is of interest to me because of use of whiteboards and literacy. Though it is from Australia, it also is of interest in teaching English as a second language.   From my ESOL classes I have learned about teaching minority students, with little English spoken in home environments, is a present reality in today’s education field.  As this article pointed out, the use of whiteboards in teaching English is very positive, with students having visual representation of letters, words, sounds, and pictures to connect new definitions to.  The ability to manipulate and move words around also facilitates knowledge of the English language.  Also, having part of the process set up in a game format can promote the students’ engagement in learning.  Many school classrooms have whiteboards available in them currently and teachers need to learn how to use them to strengthen all of their teaching practices.

Clark, L., et al, (2007).  Interactive whiteboards in the literacy classroom at ingle farm primary.  Practically Primary, 12(3), 25-28.

About Jan Rue

Hi, I am a graduate student at Western Oregon University working towards a masters in teaching with an endorsement in reading. I am not currently teaching but hope to be able to teach in the elementary level.
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7 Responses to Interactive Whiteboards in Primary Literacy Classrooms

  1. lnixon08 says:

    Hi Jan,
    The article you reviewed is very interesting with some great ideas of how to use an interactive whiteboard for literacy with ESOL students. Using the SMART Board in my mentor teacher’s classroom was what really got me interested in incorporating technology in the classroom and ways to enhance student learning and engagement. During my time in the classroom I used it for absolutely everything, academically and for classroom management. I agree with you that students’ being able to manipulate words with the interactive whiteboard is a wonderful use of this tool. The interactive whiteboards in the article, did students have their own whiteboard or was there just one large whiteboard? I ask this because one of my concerns with the SMART Board is that only one student at a time can manipulate the screen. I think that these tools would be much more useful if they allowed all students to be actively engaged together.
    The game format is another great feature that the interactive whiteboards provide; I think this too could be enhanced with a classroom set of clickers so that all students can participate at the same time.

  2. shafner12 says:

    Hi Jan,
    This was an interesting article review. I prefer whiteboards over chalk boards, and I find them as a comfort tool when lecturing to a class. I’ve been using the whiteboard in my college literature class to write comments/ideas that the students tell me in response to the discussion questions. It is much better than standing in front of the class, nodding my head! I love the example the article gave about the teacher using different colors for grammar. If I teach a college writing or linguistics class, I might do the same – even college students like color codes.

  3. When I think of a whiteboard, I think of just a dry erase board. I think here we would call this type of board a smartboard. I can really see that it has lots of potential for use in a classroom. I especially like what you were saying about visuals for the ESOL learner. Ideally, you could take kids all over the place and learn words from learning the world. But, that isn’t usually possible. Being able to show a picture of a real bird nest, next to the word nest makes it so much more relate-able. There are lots of classrooms equipped with smartboards. However, I think more teacher training needs to be put into place in order to have them used to even a fraction of their potential.

  4. I think interactive white board are so neat! I haven’t gotten to use one myself, but from my experiences watching my teachers and colleagues use them, I can see they have a lot of potential. I really like the functionality of these tools as they are also mentioned in this review that you can move the words, highlight them, circle them, re-size them and so much more. It is so neat to see all the things you can do with Smart Boards and similar models.

    This summer, I had a class in which we learned about Smart Notebooks in combination with Smart Boards. It is like a PowerPoint presentation except students can come up and uncover hidden answers or move words to match definitions or pictures and much more. I completely agree that teachers who have the opportunity to use these awesome tools need to take the time to learn about their potential.

  5. elliesheppy says:

    I agree that Interactive Whiteboards (IWB) can be a great tool for teaching English and grammar, especially for English Language Learners. Students like that they can contribute to using the technology and are more motivated to pay attention.

    Do you have much experience with IWBs? I only have some experience using them from Substitute Teaching. I think that with all the benefits of having this tool in a classroom, teachers should utilize it to its full potential. I have substituted in classes where the students say the teacher uses the IWB for most subjects and activities, and ones where the students say the teacher uses it once a day.

    A downfall of the IWB is that it is generally designed for more teacher control and students do not necessarily have the access to technology that other tools provide.

    • Jan Rue says:

      Sorry to say I don’t have any experience with whiteboards in a classroom. They seem to be a good tool, but here again, it is learning how to use them which takes time. 🙂

  6. zobelg says:

    What I read in the comments is similar to what I’ve heard from a number of teachers informally: while they have used IWB a bit, there is little to no training so the IWB often becomes an expensive white board. One of the real questions is how do not just get sold on the hype and the research about how much potential IWBs have, but how can we get more teachers to use what they already have in the classroom.

    Since many districts will not or do not provide inservice technology trainings, what is another approach or way to give teachers experience working with IWB and other related technology? How can support be provided at minimal cost of time and money?

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