Hands Off, Vanna!

Hands off, Vanna! Giving Students Control of Interactive Whiteboard Learning

Activities and tools for students working with words on an IWB

IntroTips and Strategies • Working with wordsWorking with images
Create/improve/decideTeacher SharingResources

Most curriculum topics involve working with words in some way. Even high school students use content area reading skills and can improve high stakes test scores by working with words "hands on" the IWB. Any activity that involves looking carefully at word meaning, language structure, or writing/reading can include students manipulating words in their IWB collaborative workspace. Have students use the IWB as a workspace for:

parts of speech, modeling notetaking, sentence order (sequencing), word order, brainstorming - then color coding, context clues, main idea, cloze passages, inferencing, terms and vocabulary in any subject, ranking or relationships, signal words (first, then, consequently, etc.), color coding of ANYTHING: language case, gender, fragment vs. sentence, figurative language, etc.

Working with Words Activity Examples: (Activity format types are explained on the Tips and Strategies page.)

Sequence/sentence orderMain idea/summary RankingColor codingWord as imagesIWB-friendly web tools for words

Working with words: Sequence/sentence order
  • Copy a passage from a public domain literature source like literatureproject.com
  • Have students copy/paste or open their own drafts to collaborate on sentence order as part of building good paragraphs or persuasive essays
  • Paste and scramble sentences in the IWB software for students to arrange sentences into the correct order
  • Have students learn how to "pluck” in your software so it makes a copy of the word or words but leaves the original. This allows you to grab sentences from a passage and make them into separate, draggable items.

Activity format: Student groups/ partners could do this as a sidebar activity. Working with others forces them to think out loud. Save As or screenshot their results if an assessment or let them compare results with the original passage hidden on another page.

Working with words: Main Idea or summary
  • Have students start with a short web article, such as one from ScienceNewsforKids.
  • Use Readability plug in to clear out extraneous content, then copy/paste to the IWB software
  • "Pluck" out important words that would be part of the MAIN IDEA of this passage and drag into a holding space
  • When done, select the plucked words and copy/paste to next page of the IWB flipchart or notebook with a “cloze passage” (series of ten "fill-in-the-blanks") for a ten word Main idea statement.
  • students can also add their own words between the "plucked" words so the main idea makes sense.

Activity format: Student groups/ partners could do this as a sidebar activity. Working with others forces them to think out loud. Save As or screenshot their results. Turn them in or ask other student groups to compare results.

Working with words: Ranking
  • copy thesaurus entry for an adjective such as "fat" from Big Huge Labs thesaurus
  • “pluck" words from the thesaurus synonyms or "similar words"
  • students rank them in order by connotation, from good to bad

Activity format: Students do this in groups (Save As or screenshot to save) or with an emcee taking direction from the class as an All-4-one. This requires judgment and higher order thinking skills. Students may end up arguing about which word is worse. Try a similar ranking activity, putting causal factors (Civil War? WWII?) in order of importance. Since there is more than one possible answer, different groups could compare and debate their results in a whole class activity after small groups take their turns. Ranking also works for definite information, such as ranking math equations by slope, events of a life cycle in chronological order.

Working with words: color coding
  • color code parts of speech- use highlighters OR change the actual font colors. Always use the same colors for verbs, nouns, etc. to help students develop these difficult concepts
  • highlight words indicating bias
  • use different colors for causes and effects
  • highlight signal words (then, after, as a result, etc.)
  • highlight subject verb agreement (verb and associated subject same color)

Activity format: Student groups/ partners could do this as a sidebar activity or as an All-4-one. Younger students could do it as a center.
If you can, set three different highlighter colors on the mini toolbar to make the tools accessible.

Working with Words: Words as images -- Make your own word cloud
  • With a student acting as emcee, brainstorm words related to a concept, such as Democracy (middle school to HS) or things that affect animal survival, what all living things need, causes of erosion, etc. (elementary to middle)
  • brainstorm on any concept to assess prior knowledge
  • generate as many ideas as possible
  • save the brainstorm and set it as a sidebar for students to add more as they learn more
  • students Save As the full list and -- if done in groups --make their own version, making more important factors, causes, or elements LARGER and less important ones smaller
  • students color code (with a key) for types of factors (e.g. human behaviors that affect animal survival vs environmental factors). Ask "How could you sort these, not only by importance but by other categories?"
  • students save and share as screenshot/save as/pdf
  • students offer explanations of why they made these choices, possibly by sharing the screenshot on a class wiki or as an image with narration on Voicethread

Activity format: Could be a small group or a student multitask done at the side DURING whole class discussion, saved for the next day. Rotate the student IWB operator or do as All-4-one.

IWB-friendly web tools for words

Tool name
What it does
TeachersFirst review and more ideas for using it
Big Huge Thesaurus
interactive thesaurus to use for vocabulary activities, including word connotations, etc.
Big Huge Labs review
create fast, simple concept maps from sentences -- no membership required
Diagrammr review
The Literature Project
texts of many classic literary works to use on the IWB or copy/paste into IWB software
The Literature Project review
a downloadable plug-in for your web browser to generate plain text versions of web pages. Removes ads, images, and extraneous items. Great for learning support students who have trouble tracking text amid distractions.
Readability review
Science News for Kids
a great place to find text passages for reading comprehension, science, or current events
Science News for Kids review
Triptico Word Magnets and more
make and SAVE your own interactive word magnets and other tools to work with on IWB (read TF's review on how to install. Requires a DOWNLOAD and install to use this free tool, so you need to prepare in advance!)
Triptico review
see a graphical display of related words based on the term you enter. *NOTE: Displays adult vocabulary, if entered!
Visuwords review
Vocab grabber
plucks vocabulary from a passage you paste in, providing an on-screen view of context clues. Students could pre-analyze a passage from other web pages to help with learning terminology
Vocab grabber review
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