A class set of clipboards is one of the most underrated teaching tools out there. I want to share some of the ways to use them if you have them, and encourage you to get a set if you do not! These are so handy to have if you just get used to using them well.
Don't worry - I used to have no idea how valuable these are too! Years ago, a wonderful mentor teacher left me a set of 30 clipboards when I taught middle school. At first, I had no idea if I would ever use them. I shoved them in a closet and continued on with my day.
At the time, I had a couple of sixth graders who had what I called a "popping-up" problem. These two boys happened to be in the same class, and physically could not stay seated. They were great kids! It was not intentional, and eventually I started to feel bad for how often I'd have to say "sit back down!" They were very lovable and did not even realize it, but would suddenly be standing! Constantly.
The two who did this all the time would very sheepishly sit back down any time I pointed it out. They seemed to not even realize that their rear ends had left the seat. They just could not stay in the chairs! They'd be hunched over taking notes way down at the desk level.
Once I realized that they were just more comfortable standing, I gave up and accepted it. I just moved these students to the back row so everyone else could still see. Then, I remembered the clipboards. At least they could work without hunching way down to work at the low desk. Once I pulled out a couple of clipboards, suddenly I was finding uses for them everywhere!!
Another group of students loved to camp out on the floor right up close to the smartboard. I'd let them gather there, where they could see clearly and hear me easily when they asked. The clipboards started to come in handy again! I started leaving the whole basket out so that kids could grab them and sit (or stand) wherever they needed to.
I even started reaching for them when I needed somewhere to stack and layer all the different class periods of make-up quizzes. I found more and more uses for the set and started adapting!
Here are a few ways to use a set you may have lying around.
Clipboards are amazing for streamlining the make-up quiz process. During the regular quiz time, immediately label a blank quiz with the name of each absent student. Then, clip it to a board right away. Lay it along the chalk ledge with just the name visible. You can group and organize them by class period.
When students come in during recess time (or after school) to make up the quiz, you'll never again have to stop working with students you may be tutoring. The kids will know to come in, grab their quiz, and find a quiet place to work. No more fumbling around to find the right make-up quiz instead of focusing on grading, planning, etc. And BONUS! -- If you need to send one into the hall, they have a work surface already attached. No more dragging desks back and forth to the hallway.
If you slide the stack closer together so that only the names and class periods are showing, none of the quiz will be revealed ahead of time. You can even add a cover sheet to the top one.
If each student has a clipboard, you can spread out more for group work. Kids this age LOVE to sit on the floor. If you are trying some task card activities or scavenger hunt-style worksheets, clipboards will help a lot. Send one group to the back of the room and two to spread out in the hall, and suddenly group work is SO CALM!
During stations, scoot activities, games, etc. they will love not having to cart around a book to hold under their work. I even have learned to start color-coding groups of clipboards to kill two birds with one stone. Just hand out the clipboards, and you can have built-in partnering or grouping.
Being able to sit on the floor with a clipboard helped students even in cases I did not expect. Sending someone out in the hall to do missing work while everyone else goes over the answers used to mean dragging a desk out. Even after offering both options, I've yet to see a single student ever prefer a desk, surprisingly. I used to feel so bad having them sit on the floor until I realized how much they loved it. They sit in chairs all day and sometimes just need some variety. It can feel more relaxed for them to work lounging on the floor with a clipboard and finally get a break from the school chairs.
As we all know, middle schoolers are always begging to go work outside. This can be a pain and is sometimes asking for trouble. To make this work in situations were it was beneficial (like measuring shadows when doing scale, right triangles, etc.), I put blank paper on every clipboard, threw them all in a basket, and took everyone out with no hassle. All they needed was a pencil.
With doodle notes, it can get frustrating to carry coloring supplies around if you do want to do some chill doodle time outside with a new lesson. I've stumbled across a solution for keeping a few coloring tools on hand without dropping everything. Here's how I have adapted a brand new set of clipboards to make all these systems more perfect. Get ready for a fun project!
Ok, here comes the fun, crafty part!
To use the clipboards for grouping, it's nice to have colors, numbers, and symbols/icons (I used animals) on each. This way, you can group in different ways. I used stencils for both the pictures and numbers, but you can do stickers to keep it easier!
Groups of 4: Color-code. Students can gather into groups of four by color to work or complete stations. My set has 28 clipboards, so I grabbed 7 different paint colors. For this, I just used tape and number stencils. The foam dabbers work MUCH better than a brush for stenciling. Pro Tip: Keep your foam dabber super dry for trickier shaped stencils. Just dab over it lots of times with less paint, rather than soak it, or it will ooze through and make the stencil print messy.
Once you peel off the tape, you'll have both the coloring and the numbering done, if you do it this way. Remember, another option is to just use stickers or sharpie for the numbers, and you can add colored tape to keep it simpler. I was going for a fun, more bold graphic design, so I chose paint and arranged the tape differently to make each one unique. It does not have to be complicated. This was pretty quick for me, though, because with these little jars of paint, I did not pour anything. Just dabbed right into the jar for each one.
Two big teams: Sometimes, you need to split your class into two large groups. When you want to do this for a review game or something, have students with even numbered clipboards go to one side of the room, and students with odd numbers on the other. They can keep scorecards, notes, game sheets, etc. on their clipboard, and keep all other reference materials, calculators, phones, etc. out of the playing area. Having just the clipboard makes games run really smoothly.
Partners: So many math activities are perfect when done in pairs. Get the "math talk" going and team kids up! To pair up matching sets of clipboards, I stuck with my paint and stencil plan, but you could just use stickers instead. For mine, each pair of matching animals on the boards means those two students will work together.
Numbers: Just a side note, you can also of course just use the numbers to randomly call on a student, determine an order for presentations, etc. There are a lot of possibilities. You can also use these to have kids sign out a clipboard and see which one is missing.
Another note: I tried to make the animals "partner up" boards from two different color groups. That way, if you want to use both grouping options in the same day, everyone can keep their clipboard and still work with a totally different person.
Elastic Headbands: I use a clipboard myself all the time. Lately, it has been driving me crazy to try to carry my work along with a few pens or pencils. Especially with doodle notes, we need to have a handful of coloring tools right with the page, and even though clipboards are supposed to make this portable, I end up dropping the colored pencils. Or I try to line them up and balance them below the clip and tilt it just the right amount so they won't slide as I walk very carefully.
Sometimes, I even put my phone face down to "trap" the other end of my stack of colored pens. I finally found a little trick to help this frustration a bit. If you slip an elastic headband over the end, it will allow you to slide a little handful of colored pencils in and keep them somewhat secure to travel around with the clipboard. Usually, about 5 colors is enough for a doodle note page. I like to choose a coordinating color combo, and a lot of kids do too.
They can slide them right inside the headband and keep them handy. (Tip: Be careful if you use the headbands with the strip of clear rubbery silicone. Those would probably grip the pencils better but could also grip and rip the paper.)
Notice, you can tilt the page almost completely vertically and it still holds them pretty well! So handy for working on doodle notes together on the floor, in groups, spread out in the hallway, or even outside!
This particular set of clipboards is going to a teacher in need as part of my "Supply Sprinkle" where I am gifting materials and teaching tools to a math classroom that is lacking the funds they need. If you or someone you know could use this type of gift showering for their math classroom, apply here!
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