Classroom Solutions > Mary Blow > Engaging Students in Reading and Writing With Interactive Whiteboards

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Engaging Students in Reading and Writing With Interactive Whiteboards


Some critics claim that interactive whiteboards (IWBs) are glorified, expensive projectors. I suppose they are, if they are used as a presentation tool and not as a learning tool that requires student interaction. There are effective ways of implementing an interactive whiteboard (IWB) into reading and writing without a lot of time or technological skills. The key is to make sure the activities are interactive, as the name suggests. 


Watch the video tutorial below to learn how to create a quick and simple vocabulary activity.



Improving Reading Comprehension

Smart_word_match During reading, I use interactive flash objects such as word matching, word sorts, and sequencing sentences that engage students in prereading and postreading activities. The interactive objects are similar to templates; I input the information and the students manipulate the objects. These activities have students out of their seats, motivated and engaged in learning. Minimal technological skills are required to enrich lessons in this manner. Watch the video to see how I created an interactive vocabulary matching activity. 


Still, how do you get students engaged in higher level thinking during reading? I don’t reinvent the wheel. I use strategies that I already use in my classroom. One of my favorite comprehension strategies is think-aloud, as it illustrates the thought processes that occur during reading. Students, especially in middle school, are more willing to take risks if they see that the teacher, too, has to process what is being read. Using the  SMART Notebook pen, I can write on any projected image: e-book, e-magazine, Web site, or video. After projecting a text image, I model what my brain is thinking by reading aloud, pausing, and explaining my thought processes. IWB tools make this oral activity visual and engaging. I can highlight text, or stamp a smiley face when making text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections. I may even post a question mark, if I am confused and cannot comprehend a word or passage. 


Basketball_compare-contrast When reading nonfiction, I tell my students to think like a lawyer and highlight the evidence to support opinions or defend an answer. After I model the activity, the students engage in guided practice using the IWB tools to mark their own annotations while explaining their thought processes to the class. With guided practice, my students are more successful at transferring this skill into literature circle discussions and independent reading activities. 

For instance, on my class Web site is a SMART lesson, "Basketball, Then and Now," which exemplifies how I enrich everyday classroom materials with an IWB. In this example, students read an article from Storyworks, a language arts magazine published by Scholastic. I have a classroom subscription; any electronic resource will work. YouTube videos are also embedded to provide background knowledge to improve comprehension. Many videos can be found at SchoolTube and TeacherTube as well.


Writer’s Workshop

Run-ons_reflection In addition to aiding in reading, IWBs are highly effective in Writer’s Workshop. I start out by highlighting parts of a sentence, the subject and the predicate, to teach simple sentence structure. Later, I use highlighting to teach compound and complex sentence structures by highlighting dependent and independent clauses in contrasting colors. Eventually, students highlight and analyze varying sentence structures in an “expert’s” writing sample, which they use as a model when venturing out on their own. Interactive flash objects in writing include flip bars, click and reveal boxes, pull tabs, etc. The exercise "Run-on Sentences" is a good one for Writing Workshop. You may download it and modify it to fit your needs. It was created using varying interactive components.


Using Reading as a Model for Writing

How do I pull reading and writing together? I use reading as a model for writing. For example, many students at this age level struggle with organizational patterns in nonfiction texts; therefore, I use nonfiction reading passages as a model for writing nonfiction. We begin by highlighting cause-and-effect or compare-contrast patterns as a class. The students finish highlighting in a think-pair-share activity. Independently, the students use the annotated “expert’s writing” as a model to guide them in writing their own articles, mimicking the “expert’s” pattern. Implementing an IWB provides the opportunity for students of varying learning styles to interact and engage in the learning process.

For other great IWB lessons and resources, see IWB Lessons at Scholastic, educator resources at SMART, the Educator Resource Center at Tequipment, and the article "Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom."


If you have any questions, ideas, or IWB lesson ideas and would like to share, please post a comment.


  • #1 Mary Blow

    Thursday, September 02, 2010 at 06:23 PM

    Amanda, I saw a Mobi in action last summer. They are fabulous. I agree with you. We don't need to make the use of technology difficult. I use technology to enrich my lessons--not to reinvent the wheel. Technology is a vehicle, not the content. If I follow this rule, I don't lose site of my educational goal. I'd like to hear more from you on the mobi. I am getting the SMART version soon. Have a nice school year. ~Mary

  • #2 Mary Blow

    Thursday, September 02, 2010 at 06:10 PM

    Nancy, I love my SMART Board. We are installing 117 right about an adventure. I can't wait until we are all up and running. I learn best by sharing and watching. It will be great to see how others use it. Have nice school year. ~Mary

  • #3 Nancy Barile

    Thursday, September 02, 2010 at 12:51 AM

    Yay! Great tips I most definitely need for using my smartboard!

  • #4 Amanda Nickerson

    Wednesday, September 01, 2010 at 07:37 AM

    Thanks for sharing! I am somewhat impatiently waiting to receive my Interwrite Mobi. It's a portable interactive board that communicates with my computer and projector to do, essentially, what a Smartboard does. I am really excited to make my lessons a little more interactive. Last year, I used the Notebook software when our grade-level Smartboard was unavailable, but it's just not the same! I love that you pointed out that you can do think-alouds and think-pair-shares while utilizing technology. I think sometimes we try to make everything too difficult and forget to use what we already know! Great post!

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Mary Blow
Mary Blow
Glenfield, NY
Grades 6-8
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