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Classroom DIY: The Dawn of Next Level Student Engagement Strategies

October 9, 2013 / by Rosemary Baker

You’ve got routines and procedures humming (for the most part at least, you may have an occasional hiccup here and there).

Your relationship with your kids is building day by day.

You finally got the thumbs up from your principal on your 4Ms objectives AND your kids worked at level 0 during independent work time for several minutes straight!

It’s time. Time to roll out the “next level tools” for student engagement!

Next level tools can look like using manipulatives, cultivating Think-Pair-Shares, starting mini-discussions using accountable talk stems, students showing examples of their work at the board, checking for understanding using white boards, etc.  

All next level tools invariably need a mini-lesson and a roll out like every other routine you have taught students. In order for any of the aforementioned to be effective, they each need to be substantially taught using a gradual release model.  

I know that sounds like common sense but be careful!  Oftentimes once you get a good pace going in your classroom and you endeavor to introduce something new, it’s often difficult to slow down enough to really reinforce your expectations for these new strategies effectively. Bottom line: the faster you slow down to teach them, the faster you will be able to use them in a really rigorous way.

In this month's DIY installment, we'll focus on one tool that all teachers want and need - white boards.  

In order to get you the best possible bargain with the least amount of effort, I did a little research.  My hope is that by the end of this blog, you will have a clear idea of how to get your own class set of white boards for under $25.  

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Option #1:

The first thing I did was head to the dollar store to see what I could get.  They have $1 white boards that even come with a dry erase marker.  I think you could feasibly go and buy 24 of these and be done.  This is your first option.

Option #2:

The other option, in my opinion, is a better investment and cheaper but it takes a little more time - The second option is to make your own set of white boards from some sturdier material found at a hardware store.  Here are the 5 steps to follow:

Step 1: Head to a store like this or one similar:

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Step 2: Find a nice employee like Ricardo to help you:

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Step 3: Ask him to help you find the largest piece of marker board they have (the one he is holding is 2X4 but some stores also carry 4X8 and this size gives you the most for your money).

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Step 4: Ask him to cut it into 1’x 8” boards.  The 2x4 yields 12 boards and the 4x8 gives you 24 boards.  The cutting can vary in price from free to $0.50 per cut.  (Tell the cashier you are a teacher and this is for your students and they may waive the cutting fee!)

Step 5: Be very proud of yourself for figuring out how to make your own white boards and get the most for your money! (Pay no attention to the fact that my boards are cut 1X1.  I didn’t figure that out until it was too late...)

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$11.31 for a dozen, so I could get a set of 24 for under $25. YES!

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All in all, either option works.  Whatever you choose, the point is to get kids enthusiastically engaged in the learning. Get this engagement tool in the hands of yours students, teach it well, use it well and you will have effectively gone “next level.”

Topics: Professional Learning, Engagement, Classroom Setup

Rosemary Baker

Written by Rosemary Baker

Rosemary currently works for AUSL, co-managing their Elementary Coach team. Using what's she's learned in her 14 years as an educator, she supports coaches, teachers and administrators as they do the important work of turning around failing schools.

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