Sunday, 6 November 2011

Mini whiteboards and CLIL

Last week I gave a workshop at the national CLIL conference on mini whiteboards. Mini whiteboards are a great addition to the CLIL toolbox. When they’re used in a classroom, each learner has one so when the teacher asks, for example, a question, every learner is expected to give an answer (by holding their whiteboard up).

As well as getting the workshop participants to experience specific activities that use the whiteboards, and that can be applied to every subject, as part of the workshop I also tried to identify the elements of CLIL underpinning these activities. I came up with ten. Here they are, with some indication of the rationale behind each element.


Warmers are important in a CLIL lesson to help learners make the transition from a regular lesson to a CLIL lesson, or from one subject to another. There are lots of ways that mini whiteboards can be used for quick and easy-to-setup warming up activities.


Using mini whiteboards, everyone is engaged and everyone is expected to come up with a response or answer to a task. When learners show their boards, the focus is on the answer and not on the individual learner.


Mini whiteboards can be used to guide a discussion and to encourage learners to interact with each other. Interaction is important in order to get learners to use and experiment with language – getting learners to speak English is one of the big challenges in a CLIL classroom.


Mini whiteboards allow the teacher to see everyone’s answers, giving feedback on what the learners already know, and then allowing the teacher to choose which responses they want to focus on in order to connect to the content of the lesson. Building on prior knowledge is an important factor for both learning a language and for learning specific subject content.


Mini whiteboards help the teacher to include some form of written output in a lesson and also to activate spoken output. Subject teachers have to become language teachers in a CLIL context – this is one of their biggest challenges!


Mini whiteboards can be used to give “wait time” to learners. This is important in a CLIL context in order for learners to think about and to process language and content.


Mini whiteboards can be used to provide learners with language rehearsal. For example, by firstly writing down an answer the learner is able to think about on their own the language they need to use. Next, they can practise using this language with a partner. Only after this do they then get to give an answer in front of the entire class. This takes the pressure off the learner in terms of being able to supply an immediate answer verbally. Second language acquisition theory shows that learners learn a language best when their anxiety levels are lowest.


Giving learners open and stimulating questions to think about and discuss can also help to develop their language skills. Also, once learners have provided answers by showing their whiteboards, questions to learners at this stage about their answers on their boards can be used to further stimulate HOTS (higher order thinking skills).


Formative assessment is important in a CLIL context because assessment for learning is a key issue for CLIL teachers since they are always working with both language and content, and they need to use regular formative assessment methods to check on the learning of their students. Mini whiteboards are an effective means for doing this because the teacher is able to see very quickly if there are any problems.


Whiteboards can also be used as a great way for reflection at the end of a lesson. For example, get learners to write down on their boards what was the most important thing they learnt in the lesson. This can help to consolidate their learning and also enables the teacher to check what learning has taken place. This is important for CLIL teachers because of the dual focus on content and language, and which therefore makes for a twofold demand on the learner.


  1. I love the mini-whiteboards, and would love to use them. Unfortunately, I cannot find where to buy them. Online sources suggest making them yourself from showerboard, but I can't find that anywhere either.
    Do you have suggestions for me on how to find the mini-whiteboards, and best practices for size?

    Also can you please add a link so that I can follow you in my googlereader?

    1. I have exactly the same problem: I used to use them all the time in the UK, but here in the Netherlands they're impossible to find. I managed to order one set from a British company, but as they wouldn't deliver overseas I ended up having to get them delivered to family and pick them up when I was visiting! Now we want more and I don't know where to start...

    2. Don´t worry about that! Did you try this? You must take a regular white card and cover it with laminated plastic. That´s all! The cheapest way!

  2. hi Tessa,
    You waited a long time for a response. You can get mini whiteboards from this link: