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SMARTboards and Literacy in the Classroom

by Andrea T. Rodrigue, studioD

Interactive whiteboards, generically named for the branded SMARTboard®, have made their way into classrooms, where they are used to create interactive lessons. They connect to a computer to display educational and interactive materials on the computer and are large enough for whole classes to view clearly from all areas of a classroom. They are controlled by touch or by special electronic pens. These boards can display and save digital content and creative projects that could not be displayed or saved on a chalkboard or dry-erase board.


Researcher Robert Marzano conducted a study of the effectiveness of interactive whiteboards. He states, as a result of his research, that use of interactive whiteboards can account for a 16 percentile point gain in student results. In 2006, a white paper published by Smart Technologies, Inc. summarized more than 35 studies that showed positive student responses to use of interactive whiteboards, increased student engagement, increased motivation, better grades, and higher retention of skills.

Interactive Whiteboards and Literacy

The National Panel on Reading made several recommendations on effective activities to teach reading. The most important of these is to model reading comprehension through "think alouds" and to model organization of new ideas gained from reading into graphic organizers. While both activities can be accomplished without the use of interactive whiteboards, they can be more engaging with them. Most textbooks come with electronic versions, either on CD-ROM or online. With an interactive whiteboard, a teacher can display, underline, and highlight text while modeling comprehension through "think aloud" and interactive activities. The teacher can then have students practice using the same electronic tools to model for each other. The same can be done with graphic organizers to record new information gained from a reading passage. Other reading skills become more engaging and interactive for students, thus increasing the chances that students will master and retain those reading skills. These include summarizing, identifying main idea and detail, drawing conclusions, making inferences and sequencing.

Interactive Tools

Marzano's research shows that handheld responders, along with interactive whiteboards, results in as much as a 26 percentile gain in student achievement. With handheld responders, all students become accountable for participating in the lesson. Handheld responders transmit student responses to questions electronically and instantly. With the interactive whiteboard, the teacher can present information and ask questions. With handheld responders, the teacher and the class can instantly see student responses and the teacher can monitor student participation and answers for immediate feedback. By presenting information in a way that engages students with the interactive whiteboard, then providing all students with an opportunity to participate using handheld responders, the teacher creates a learning atmosphere in which all students can practice new skills and become more literate.

Small-Group Instruction

The use of interactive whiteboards is not limited to whole groups, however. Teachers have been using these tools to model and create interactive literacy activities for small groups and literacy centers as well. Today's students are very adept at learning and using new technologies. After modeling a couple of whole-group lessons, teachers will find that they can set up a small group activity that engages one group of students while the teacher works with another group.

Don't Reinvent the Wheel

Teachers can be very creative with their lessons, but setting up a lesson for an interactive whiteboard can sometimes be very time-consuming. Get smart and search for interactive lessons that have already been created and published online. On the SMART exchange, teachers can find interactive whiteboard lessons already created and ready to go for a broad range of grade levels and literacy skills. Activities for sight words, reading skills, comprehension and writing are all available with a simple Internet search.

About the Author

Andrea T. Rodrigue earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Masters in education from Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA. She is a National Board Certified Early Childhood Specialist, a state certified educational technology leader, and a state-certified educational leader.

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