I run a lot of interactive whiteboard training courses for teachers, and I am very much aware that for a new user your average piece of IWB software has a lot of buttons and tools that can be quite confusing.

In addition, while the majority of schools are using either Smart Notebook or Activ software there are a lot of other pieces of software out there that teachers are using in schools. It can be frustrating to see activities that are reliant on a very specific tool in one piece of software, only to find that you can’t do that in the software you have in school. Tools such as tables, handwriting recognition, interactive resources, maths tools, timers and suchlike. All are fun, but not always essential.

Too many tools can be overwhelming, it’s better to slim things down and focus on the important ones.


So I am going to concentrate on the 5 most basic tools that any piece of interactive whiteboard software should have, and how you can create a lot of really useful activites for your lessons.

Those 5 tools are:

  • Freehand Pen
  • Text
  • Shapes
  • Eraser
  • Images (via copy/paste or a screen capture tool)

With just these tools, there are so many things you can do. Also handy would be to know how to group shapes together and to lock some objects on the page so they can’t be moved by accident.

1. Rub and Reveal

This is a very simple technique that relies on the fact that the eraser tool rubs out anything drawn with the pen tool, but does not rub out typed text. If you change the pen tool to have a thick line, and change the colour so that it matches the background of the page, then you can quickly make text disappear by simply drawing over it. This is a very quick way to make cloze activities (fill in the gaps) or to hide labels to a diagram such as in the example below.To make the text appear, switch to the eraser tool and then rub out the pen. The words will appear as if by magic. It’s a simple technique, but very effective.

2. Anagram Keyword Games

At its most simple level, all this activity is made from are two blocks of text – one is an anagram of a keyword, and one is the correct answer. I have then drawn two rectangles and filled them in. These are then used to cover the two words.

In this example I have added text to the two boxes so I can remember which is the anagram and which is the answer.

You can make it more interesting if you want with the optional step of adding a clock with a “countdown” piece of music that I downloaded from the internet. Or if your whiteboard software has on-screen timers you could use them. But this is not really necessary.

By way of speeding up the generation of anagrams from your keywords – just go to the Wordsmith Anagram Generator and type your keyword in. It will make anagrams for you.

3. Drag and Drop 1 – matching

A very simple activity to use at different times in a lesson to check on understanding, these are simply text boxes which then need to be matched.

To speed things up, I created one blue box and one yellow box using the shapes tool and then added text. I then cloned these boxes several times (or copy/paste) to get many identical boxes. Then change the text in each one.

The boxes could contain words and their definitions, beginnings and ends of sentences, dates and events, words in one language and their corresponding word in english.

The boxes can be dragged together to match up. Or lines can be drawn to pair them up.

As an extension – have a whole load of different words in boxes for sentence rearranging or fridge magnet poetry…

4. Drag and Drop 2 – Sequencing

This is the same as the example above, only that the boxes are larger and contain a sentence or phrase. The activity could be to put these sentences into the correct order either based on a story or a set of events. These could also be statements that the pupils need to rank into order of importance, or strongly agree and strongly disagree where there may not be correct answer as such, but acts as a stimulus for discussion.

5. Drag and Drop 3- sorting

This activity relies on the screen being split into two (or three) columns with text boxes placed at the bottom. The words can be dragged into the correct columns. The example in the image is more complicated that it needs to be as I have made a table out of several boxes. But you could just put a line down the middle of the screen.

The obvious alternative is to use circles to create a venn diagram.

6. Drag and Drop 4 – matching words and pictures

If you can get pictures onto your IWB page then you could adapt the earlier matching example to include images. In the example below images were copied and pasted from the internet, or found in the clipart gallery, and then text boxes were made with words in.

7. Drag and Drop 5 – Plenary Circles

A simple idea for summarising what pupils have learnt at the end of a lesson. It consists simply of a large circle, with text arranged around the outside. All pupils get thinking time to come up with several sentences that start “I know that….” and then use two of the words to finish the sentence. So “I know that Metal is a Conductor” for example.

Some pupils can then come to the board to pull the two words in and make their sentence to share with the rest of the class. See a video about plenary circles here.

8. Fishing Rods / Balloons

I’ll combine these two ideas as they’re basically the same. Attach questions, words or phrases to other objects so that you can reveal them at random by pulling them out from behind an object or pulling them from off-screen.

The fishing rod is just made from several lines using the line tool, and then grouped together. The “sea” is just a big blue rectangle that’s been put in front to hide the objects on the end of the rod.

The balloons are simply made from a few shapes and a line grouped together. The sky and ground art simply made from two rectangles that have been filled with a gradient fill, sent to the back and then locked in place.

Pupils would come to the board, grab a string and pull down the balloon. They then have to answer the sum that’s been grouped to the balloon.

The balloons and fishing rods are making things more complicated than they need to be, but they look fun. At the most basic level I have done this by typing a word or phrase, drawing a squiggly line and grouping the two together. The word can then be pushed off the screen leaving the line visible so it can be pulled back on when needed. The balloons look nicer, but again it’s just extra fluff 🙂

In Summary

All of the ideas given above make use of the most basic tools that any interactive whiteboard software worth owning should have. As long as you can write with the pen, type text, make simple shapes and insert images then you can make these. As an added plus, being able to group boxes and text, or add text quickly to a box will also help.

With all these activities, remember that you don’t need to use all the whistles and bells of your IWB software to make engaging activities. It doesn’t need a degree in computer science to move away from using your IWB as just a screen to show videos or powerpoint.

Remember that most IWB firms will let you install their software at home so that you can create resources away from the board to then bring into the class on a USB stick etc. It’s actually much easier to pre-prepare a lot of this stuff away from the board with a mouse/keyboard.

Learn more

You can see some of these ideas in action here, with the demonstration I did for TeachMeet Essex last year. And if you want some of these activities you can download some of them in a file here: Lesson Starter Ideas for your Whiteboard.

Book Me!

If you are ever looking for interactive whiteboard training, do bear me in mind. I can come in and show your staff how to make all these things.

If you like these ideas, and you make anything great – I’d love to see what you’ve made. Please get in touch!