3 Reasons You Need Whiteboards in Your Library or Classroom

Drawing on the Whiteboard WallOne of my favorite ways to update and improve a learning space is by adding writeable surfaces. Sure, many of our classrooms and libraries have wall-mounted whiteboards, but students often see this as a teacher space and not something they can access. Adding a variety of different whiteboard surfaces can help students to see that these spaces are their spaces.

There are many ways you can add whiteboard surfaces to your space. You can paint a smooth wall or a pole with whiteboard paint. Dry-erase tables and mobile whiteboards are also great options. Try to add a variety of vertical and horizontal whiteboard surfaces to meet the different needs of students, as they can serve different purposes.

  • Vertical surfaces, like walls and mobile whiteboards, are great for brainstorming and collaborative work, as well as for presenting to larger groups of students.
  • Horizontal surfaces, like dry-erase tables or small individual whiteboards, are great for projects that students don’t necessarily want to broadcast to everyone else in the room. They work well to support small groups and individual brainstorming.

Below are a few more reasons you should think about adding whiteboards to your learning space.

They Support Student Collaboration and Brainstorming

When students are working on a project together, it often helps them to write or draw their ideas. Being able to see their outline written out, drawing up a draft of the robot they’re planning to build, writing out the problem area of their code — all of these can be especially helpful to visual learners. While they could write out these ideas on paper, whiteboards allow students to quickly write, erase, and rewrite what they’re working on and give them a larger space to work out ideas.

Here are some examples of how I’ve seen students use whiteboard surfaces in this way:

  • Practicing math equations during lunch to get ready for a Mu Alpha Theta competition
  • Drawing up an outline of a project for language arts
  • Visualizing the physics equations needed for a VR app being developed for class

You Can Build Maker Culture with Play

Playing tic-tac-toe on a whiteboard tableHaving a fun, interactive space is a powerful way to build maker culture within your school. While whiteboards have a ton of academic uses, they’re also great for fun and play. They work for student drawings, games of hangman, collaborative poems, and all sorts of other activities.

Here are some examples:

  • Sketching out an idea for a crossbow made out of K’NEX before the building starts
  • Creating whiteboard murals for special events like an open house
  • Designing marker extenders that can hold a marker at a distance and allow you to doodle on a table
  • Attaching a marker to a robot and programming it to draw the school mascot

Get Ready to Start Making!

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They Allow for Student Voice

Whiteboard walls, tables, and other surfaces can become the students’ space rather than the teacher’s space. This empowers student voice by allowing them to have a place where they can create and express themselves with few restrictions. My students have used our whiteboard surfaces in many creative ways.

Some of my students loved to create polls — they’d write up a question each week and students would add tally marks as votes. A student who was passionate about a particular book series would draw fan art promoting the books. One student would come every morning to draw a new comic strip he was creating. Designing a space that is specifically for students allows them to have a sense of ownership where they can feel safe being themselves.

FAQ Bonus

My students aren’t using our new whiteboard tables, wall, etc. How do I get them to start?

Draw a starter picture or two. Write “write on me” and “draw on me” on the surfaces. Incorporate the whiteboards into an activity in your next lesson. Once the momentum starts, it’ll keep going.

How often do I need to clean my whiteboards?

This depends on what type of whiteboard you have and how much it’s used. Whiteboard paint and shower board are more likely to ghost quickly (where the image stains the board), so they need to be cleaned at least once a week. Whiteboard tables can go longer. I had a student helper who was assigned to cleaning our whiteboards when they got messy, and I also kept a microfiber cloth and spray bottle with soapy water nearby for students to use on their own.

I’m worried my students are going to write inappropriate words or draw dirty pictures.

Well, it might happen, but the students who would do this are also likely to be the ones who would vandalize desks and tables — and we still have those. For the most part, I’ve found that students are so happy to have a space that’s theirs that they will respect it. If they see that someone else has drawn or written something inappropriate, they’ll often erase it before I even see it. One student even wrote a bad word with asterisks as a way to censor it. The bigger problem I had at the middle school level was students writing personal information such as their social media handles.

What kind of dry-erase markers should I buy?

Try several different brands of markers and find which kind works best for your particular surfaces. I finally settled on the popular name-brand markers because they seemed to work best with the variety of surfaces in my space, cleaned up well, and lasted a reasonable amount of time. We used both the fine-tip markers and the traditional thick markers. I did find that for some reason red markers would ghost the surfaces faster, so I ended up removing all of them. One thing to remember is that you will need to buy lots of dry-erase markers. They get worn out pretty quickly, especially if students are not good about replacing the caps or if they push down too hard when using them.

Whiteboards for the Win!

Whiteboards and other writable surfaces are a fantastic addition to any learning space. They can help to support collaboration and creativity and they’re just plain fun.

Looking to add some whiteboards/writable surfaces into your space? Here are a few options:


Diana Rendina

Diana Rendina

Diana is the media specialist at a 6–12 independent school in Tampa, FL. She is the creator of the blog Renovated Learning, where she documented the creation of her makerpsace at her previous school, a public magnet middle school. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award and the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the maker movement and has presented at many conferences, including AASL, FETC and ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves, and is the author of Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.