The Whiteboard Set-Up

As the first weeks of school get rolling, a common teacher blog post is the classroom set up.  I love reading all the set up stories, instructions, and creative ideas (I really do,) BUT… I find so little of it useful to me.  At my last school, teachers were very limited to what they could physically do to the classroom.  I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t add to or change the furniture in any way, and I was just barely allowed to hang up posters.  The system gave the school a uniform and professional appearance, but left me itching to add a personal touch.

Uniform, Professional
Uniform, Professional (And insane bright light at the end of the day, sorry about that.)

Hence, the whiteboard set up.

Almost every classroom has a whiteboard.  Mine had two: one behind the projector screen (which I rarely used, because projector) and another up front and clear.  The set-up I used (still use, actually,) worked extremely well for me – so much so that my colleagues asked where I had gotten my materials and if the students liked it.  You are welcome to modify and make use of it for your classroom.  I find that this set up is helpful to the students and myself, appeases administration demands, costs nothing, and looks great.

The purpose:

This is another way to give your students (and your admin) a very clear purpose for the day.  It’s about organization and consistency.  It’s about state standards.  It’s about flow and expectations.

The materials:

  • Colorful whiteboard markers
  • An eraser
  • Magnetic strips or colored tape (I used 12 inch strips and lined them up)
  • Whatever else you deem important (for me, that’s some colorful/relevant paper posters)

The sections:

The white board areas

  • 7th grade week ahead
  • 8th grade week ahead
  • Journal prompts (or whatever else you would like to call/decorate your weeks)
  • The daily agenda
  • The assorted area (that blank space in the upper left)

7th and 8th grade week ahead:

Week ahead from August

Using your tape or magnetic strips, divide out two (or however many classes you teach) vertical sections of board.  Yes, I do recommend using something physical to divide it.  Drawn lines will work, but the physical separation of something they can’t slyly erase helps the students mentally divide the sections.  Students are… special like that.

Most schools now require teachers to post their daily objective or a state standard focus.  I post one for every day, starting on Monday.  Administration sees I am following the rules and students see the purpose and goal of what we are learning. I used used the SWBAT form (Students Will Be Able To), which I talked about with my students.  Currently, I use “I can” statements, because admin likes that phrasing. By posting it for the whole week, students can look ahead and feel like all is planned and I, the teacher, can stay on topic.

Helpful hint: Color code.  On my board, homework always shows up in black (it’s the easiest to read; none of that “I couldn’t see it from back here”).  Make your own color code.  Do students need certain materials on certain days?  Do you have a weekly quiz?  This is especially helpful for students with an IEP or 504, as the colors provide a sort of built-in organization.

Journal Prompts:

I use my journal prompts on the left to mark out the days of the week (made by this fabulous friend from whom I am always stealing things,) but you can use your own way to indicate days.  Again, I highly recommend something tangible, not written in dry erase.  It really helps add that sense of physical separation.  Plus, do you really want to be writing “Monday, Tuesday…” every week?

The daily agenda:

I am a firm believer in the daily agenda.  Not only do certain students like to see what we are doing all class period, it helps me.  You know how it is: you get rolling, a discussion happens, then you’ve forgotten to take roll and announce that really important administration thing.  By posting the agenda, I keep myself on track (and if I don’t, you can bet the students will).

I always write the homework here too, so students are never interrupting class to ask, “Do we have homework?”

The daily agenda and the assorted section

The assorted area:

This one varies based on what you need.  The only trick is: it shouldn’t be a working area.  It should be semi-permanent (like the rest of the board).

Right now I’ve got the TRIBES learning communities agreements up there (thanks again, to that great friend,) but that’s just for a couple weeks as I reinforce these agreements.  The first week of school I wrote the class schedule.  Next week, the class is learning about something called alpha and beta goals, so I’ll write Mrs. M’s beta goals up there.

The full picture (Yes, I know 7th and 8th grade are the same this week. It worked out that way.)

I usually do my entire board in one sweep before school starts on Monday, then add little changes as the week goes.  Administration loves it because they can see I have a purpose behind every day.  I love it because, frankly, it appeals to my aesthetic nature and it adds personal touch to an otherwise uniform room.  The students love it because it gives them vital information and has a consistency that I know they crave.

I have used this format in all three classrooms I’ve taught in, including summer school in a room I didn’t even have a desk drawer.  It works everywhere.

I couldn’t find a picture, but I took a still from a video that was used for a class project.  In the background, you can see this set up.  Looks nice, works nice.


{This post originally appeared on SecondaryDreamTream.  I have edited for clarity and added based on experience.}

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