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Bytesize 3: Student Engagement in Socially Distanced Classrooms

In our third NET Section Bytesize we are looking at student engagement in socially distanced classrooms. 

If you are no longer able to use tablets/iPads, an individual whiteboard may be your answer. 

Individual whiteboards provide the opportunity for a whole class to engage and contribute simultaneously to the class discussion. It also allows students to practise a variety of skills and makes student understanding visible to teachers right in the classroom. Individual whiteboards are a simple piece of technology that might make classrooms more dynamic despite the limitations of social distancing guidelines. 

The following suggestions and alternatives are meant to be a starting point for teachers to enhance student engagement in learning using individual whiteboards in the classroom: 

  • Use a whiteboard to conduct polling: Students can be asked for input on their thoughts, preferences and experiences.  
  • Use a whiteboard to respond to quiz apps like KahootQuizizzBaamboozle, Forms, etc. Teacher sets the timer for each question to its maximum time limit. The teacher uses the class computer to host the activity on the projector and uses one other device to play the game. The students play the game as usual and write their answer and show it. This is very similar to polling the class for answers. The teacher selects answers based on need and the platform provides instant feedback.
  • Use a whiteboard to engage in reading
  • Ask the class for predictions about the text 
  • Ask the class what they can see in the picture 
  • Identify a particular word in the text 
  • Cover a word and ask for suggestions as to which word fits in the sentence (decoding strategies) 
  • How can we cut up this word to make it easier to pronounce? (decoding strategies) 
  • Can you see a small word in this big word? (decoding strategies) 
  • Reading comprehension questions: try to constrain questions so that they have short answers, e.g. Who gave Little Red Riding Hood the basket?  
  • Which sentence tells us...  
  • Ask students to keep a tally of the number of times a word, blend or sentence pattern is used in a passage  
  • Use a whiteboard to respond to writing
  • Elicit information for prewriting 
  • Ask students for words that mean... 
  • Ask students to complete sentences 
  • Ask students to write sentences that use phrases, e.g. '...was the best...' 
  • Use a whiteboard to engage in listening
  • Ask students to identify initial, medial or final sounds in a word and write it down 
  • Ask students to listen and write spoken high frequency words 
  • Ask students to identify the missing word in a sentence and write them down 
  • Ask comprehension questions based on listening  

Teaching recommendations: 

Establish clear, consistent and repeated procedures for using whiteboards to support on-task behaviour 

  • Model how students are expected to use the whiteboard during a given activity
  • Leverage the process of using whiteboards as a context for teaching functional English 
  • Support classroom routines through the systematic procedure of using whiteboards  

Hardware recommendations: 

If your school does not have whiteboards for students, an A4 plastic folder with white paper in it can be used as a temporary whiteboard. Scrap paper folded into A5 booklets with the blank sides facing one way can make simple notebooks.  Finally, notebooks could be used with markers.




To enhance the teaching content, teachers can exercise their professional judgment and consult relevant scholarly work when adopting the learning and teaching resources prepared by educators and other teachers. In support of the implementation of the English Language Education KLA Curriculum, teachers can also select appropriate parts of the resources for classroom learning or extended learning based on pedagogical consideration and the learning needs of students.

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