7 super simple things I do on an interactive whiteboard

IWB page

The results of an "interactive dictation" (see below) done on an IWB page, exported from there as an image file, then imported here

Last week I posted 10 good, productive uses of an interactive whiteboard (IWB), which included some of my all-time favourite activities with an IWB.

Here are seven more things I do regularly, shown above in the image, captured while I was demonstrating the IWB in a workshop, with further explanation below.

They are all things which you should learn to do fairly immediately if you have an IWB and are starting out learning to use it.

  • Interactive dictation (example in the image, above). For language classes, I love dictation — even old school ! — but by "interactive" dictation I mean that I dictate and my learners interact with me and vice versa. I have a short text, sometimes a list (as you can see in the image), which I dictate and get them to jot down. You didn't hear that? I repeat. You can't spell it? Here's how… Then they check with each other that they got the same thing, etc. It's not a test, I don't mark it: instead, it's not so much an interactive whiteboard as interactive listening and writing — and it works great on an IWB.
  • Dictogloss (which was also included last week) is such a great activity for language classes.  Dictogloss on an IWB works really well as it gives you interactive students and an inactive whiteboard, which as I suggested last week probably really ought to always be your objective
  • I display images on the IWB, often not more than one, and use them for a variety of different tasks. A favourite is hiding the image with the coversheet or spotlight tool (see below) and getting the learners to guess what (or who) is in the image. Another is to show the image for 3 seconds, turn off the projector and get the learners to talk to each other about what they think they saw (no, you don't really need an IWB to be able to do that!)
  • Download and import YouTube clips (I use KeepVid, and realise that strictly speaking I may be contravening YouTube's terms of service — for the purposes of education, you understand 😉 !). Here's a couple of YouTube clips that always work well used in conjunction with the IWB.
  • Have the learners create things on the IWB and then export them (to a class blog, Edmodo group, etc…), such as the results of brainstorming activities. Brainstorming (i.e. beginning with a single, totally blank IWB page) can then lead on to a ranking activity, both great for language classes. Here's an example of a brainstorming task that always seems to go down well in Barcelona 😉 ! And below, another example from way back, possibly the first use ever made of an IWB at IH Barcelona, to create an "A-Z of Love" (!!!) in a beginners Spanish class:

A-to-Z of Love

  • Import and go over a limited number of things, including errors, from students' work, possibly from blogs, etc. Your IWB has a "camera" tool which allows you to capture and import text from wherever in a question of seconds
  • Use some of the tools (camera, coversheet, spotlight, timer and stopwatch…). The coversheet and spotlight allow you to focus on things, such as a single paragraph of a longer text, or a grammar or lexical point in a text. You remember OHPs and how you could cover part of a slide with a sheet of paper? Well, your IWB has more sophisticated tools to do that. See below for an explanation of the timer.

Fun with your IWB timer
Here's a fun speaking activity for practically any sort of class, but perhaps especially for exam classes where you have to prepare learners to "speak for a minute" on a given topic in an oral exam. Your timer probably resides in the "gallery" of things you can pull in on to an IWB page.

You need to set up the activity as in the diagram below, with two speakers  with their backs to the board, unable to see the seconds counting down. When one runs out of something to say, they have 1 second to tag in the partner, like in tag wrestling:

Fun with the IWB timer

It makes a pretty boring task fun and gets people to really listen. Stop the clock when anyone "objects" to a possible repetition or hestitation and people get really into the game. It almost makes me wish I still taught First Certificate 😉 !

Note that you could do exactly the same thing with a browser timer (I use e.ggtimer.com), free. Do you really need an IWB…?

Two other important things I don't do:

  • I don't use the IWB very much (don't have it on and in use for an hour, in other words)
  • I don't actually touch it myself, but get my learners to operate it

And one further "don't" I would add to that list: I don't spend hours creating material for IWBs.

If I did have something that was going to take me more than 10 minutes to prepare, I'd much rather have it in a shareable, cloud-stored Google Drive document — one I can access again from outside the classroom, one I know I'll be able to re-edit from any computer outside the classroom, which you won't find is the case with IWB software.

See also
Lisa Nielsen's Ten No Nos of Teaching with a Projector or Interactive Whiteboard

How to make your Interactive Whiteboard interactive

How not to see or use your IWB

What do you do (or not do) on your IWB?
Tell us, in the comments…

10 good, productive uses of an interactive whiteboard

A map of our internet
A map of our internet: see (2), below

For those of you coming to a quick session this morning on using an interactive whiteboard (aka an IWB), here are 10 previous posts with ideas for productive IWB activities that have worked well with language classes.

By "productive" I mean that they will produce a lot of language but won't require the teacher to spend hours preparing material — so, in this case, the teacher won't have to create half a dozen or more IWB pages. Note how many of the activities below would mean using a single page, often beginning with nothing or very little on it.

In no particular order:

1. | Using a single IWB page to jot down doubts arising in discussion, and then using those as the basis for a mini-webquest

2. | A map of our internet (see example shown above), collaboratively produced on a single IWB page

3. | Grammar casino, a grammar revision game which I first played in class perhaps 25 years ago, using a piece of chalk and the blackboard

One my main doubts about IWBs:
Could we do the same task just as well without an IWB? If so, why are we using one?

4. | Importing stills from a video on to an IWB page as a starting point for digital storytelling (see also a second example)

5. | Using an IWB page to script what we think happened in a video

Infographic on an IWB
Infographic on an IWB

6. | Importing infographics, blanking out the captions (as in the image above), providing a few clues and then getting learners to speculate on what exactly it shows

7. | The IWB for weather forecasting, possibly the most fun I've ever had with the beast

8. | Another old favourite: using an IWB page for dictogloss (with or without an IWB a wonderful activity for language classes)

9. | An IWB page for brainstorming (another of my favourite classroom activities, something else which of course doesn't require an IWB!)

10. | An IWB page for mind mapping (and other things that could have been done on an IWB)

Important things to note

My #1 tip for using an IWB in class
Move quickly from the interactive whiteboard to interactive students and an inactive (sic) whiteboard

  • To learn to use an IWB, spending 20 minutes hands-on playing with it, on three separate days, is much better training than spending an hour on it on one day. You want to learn how to use things, forget them and then rediscover them. It's a bit like learning a language: class three times a week is way better than just coming on a Friday 😉 !
  • Classroom technology — any technology, not just the IWB — is NOT about what YOU, the teacher, does with it: what matters is what your learners do with it
  • KEY question How to make your interactive whiteboard truly interactive

See also ||| All previous posts with IWB activities

Other ideas that work? Or don't… ! If you have some, I'd love to hear about them! Pop them in the comments…

Athletes don't eat photocopies before competition!

This one came from the amazing BuzzFeed, where I probably spend more of my free time than I should, but find some real fun material for class in doing so, with the video above being an example.

Such things are great because for the 60 seconds it takes you to spot them (OK, maybe I was there a bit longer!) you've got a ready-made lesson, because it comes with a ready-made question that is doing to generate 60 minutes of lesson, and quite possibly more.

They're also great because the video is your material: you really don't need anything else, and instead of wasting time producing material (and this is a strictly no-photocopies lesson!), any preparation time can be spent on how to squeeze the maximum amount of interaction and language out of it.

A very rough lesson outline for just about any level B1 or above:

  • Pyramid discussion on "What athletes eat before they compete"
  • In small groups, brainstorm and then rank the top 10 resulting ideas
  • Agree as a class on a top 10
  • Then (and only then) watch the video, with no note taking
  • With a partner, note everything you recall being mentioned, and attempt to produce the top 10 from the video
  • Watch again to see if we were "right"
  • Assign one meal to each pair (or let them pick the most interesting, most weird…) and have them investigate the science (or lack of!) behind what the athlete eats, with mobile phones providing an ideal, in-class research tool
  • Report back, in small groups, probably in the next class, as a presentation (think shared Google Drive documents or Prezi) and/or in an Edmodo group or on a class blog/wiki
  • Optionally, if your learners are also athletes (or have been, at whatever level, including school), have them — or one group — research and report on what they eat

You can get so many great lessons out of  brainstorm > watch/read > compare > research > report/present, because it generates so much interaction and therefore language.

If you have an interactive whiteboard, if you keep stopping the video (you'll need to be quick!), you can easily screen capture the different meals, import them into your IWB software, and then export them as a series of images.

Better still, have one of your learners do that for you. (You'll never have to deal with fast finishers again 😉 !)

I've added a new category to my blog: Smash the photocopier! With the exception of banning Google Images, and possibly the mandatory use of smartphones in all classes, that's possibly the one thing that would most transform English language teaching, IMHO…

Great things found in 60 seconds on The Guardian

When I turn on my computer every morning, I spend about a minute scanning the front page of The Guardian. I am interested in the news but I really do it to see what I can spot that might be interesting for class.

For 60 seconds of my time, I get far more stuff than I could ever use, but from those 60 seconds I get hours and hours of interesting topics and materials for class. As a teacher, for any time you spend on preparing materials, a key question is what's your return on your investment? How many hours of language use and practice are you getting from how many minutes preparation time?

Things I spotted this week:

    • Friday These 10 true or false science facts might be fun as a team game, with 10 minutes to discuss and submit answers for 2 points each, and then a further 10 minutes to submit corrected answers — with the use of the internet for fact checking, for a further 1 point each.
    • This story about a bloke who tried to be 100% French ("only foods produced in France, eliminate contact with foreign-made goods…") might make for a way more interesting report for your learners to write than your average CAE writing paper report: can they report on what percentage are they whatever nationality they are?
    • Thursday Discussion topic: What's so great about this video that it went viral — in Germany. Would it work in your country?
    • The photo highlights of the day is always an interesting section, either for creative writing prompts or to view the photos without their captions (think interactive whiteboard for ease and speed of capture!) and see which pair or three can get closest to "explaining" the photos
    • Wednesday With a class of learners interested in cookery, the user-submitted photos of Your favourite comfort food is a great starting point for discussion and/or on-going project work: can they take and share (think Edmodo!) photos of their own comfort foods?
    • From the reports and user comments on the sports pages, Man Utd having lost 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions tie, with keen sports fans, you could get a lot of mileage from the question "What's wrong with Man Utd?"
    • Tuesday With adults, perhaps particularly anyone doing business English, the five questions Google asks job applicants might be interesting. Discussing and predicting the likely content prior to reading, from only the headline, is a format that works well with lots of articles.
    • Another one for lovers of cookery, possibly only in Spain, for discussion, research, reading and writing: What is the right way to make paella?
    • Monday Discussion topic: Is it OK to swear at football matches?
    • And finally, one for classes of teenagers: 10 things Australian teenagers really want. What do your teens really, really want?. Great as a discussion and writing project, brilliant as a video project, recorded on mobile phones!

I've been an English teacher for nearly 35 years now and I've always detested being saddled with a coursebook. Before I retire, I'd like — among other things — to teach (1) a class of teens using only the board game Catan or, alternatively, the now way too old videogame Age of Empires and (2) a class of adults using content only from the front page of The Guardian.

The course content would be so much easier to tailor to their interests and thus so much more interesting and motivating than any coursebook I've ever used.

PS I loved the photos of the model trains, and the story on Lego, too…! Oh, and the Lego infographic!

Technology makes writing better. Discuss

Hi and welcome to my blog, especially if you are coming to my session at the Macmillan Teachers Day here in Barcelona tomorrow, May 4th.

In my session, "Technology makes writing better", I'm going to be suggesting that Web 2.0 tools such as Blogger, Edmodo, Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) and TodaysMeet make the sort of writing task we get on Cambridge exams like FCE, CAE and Proficiency better — in that, with the help of not too much technology the tasks can be made more collaborative and thus more fun, more productive in terms of language learning, and so much more 21st century.

Links from the session

After the session, I'll be posting an edited version of the presentation on Slideshare, and here on my blog…

Comments, feedback, suggestions, other ideas…? Do make them — either here or else on the TodaysMeet for the session.