Whiteboard Marker Mayhem!

Ever have trouble with whiteboard markers?  Who hasn't!!!!  I have figured out a couple of tricks over the years that have made my whiteboard marker nightmares disappear . . . um, well at least they aren't the huge nightmare they were before.  Let me put it in simpler terms, school has been in session for six weeks now, and my kids have only killed off one of my original twenty-six markers!
Problem #1: The kids push too hard!   

This one is an easy fix!  You will need a pair of needle-nose pliers (I bought a pair at Wal-Mart for $1.39) or tweezers.

Be careful, sometimes the ink splatters when you do this.  I usually do it over the garbage can.  If ink gets on your hands, it washes off.  I'm not sure what happens if it drips on your clothes!

Problem #2: The kids aren't responsible with the markers.

I have done a couple of things to solve this problem.  First, I don't let them keep the markers and whiteboards in their desks.  I used to do this for the sake of convenience, but found that they were too easily accessible for students that chose to misbehave with them.  Now, I keep the markers, boards, and erasers in a communal place.  We get them out only as needed.

Second, each child is assigned a marker, and the marker is labeled the student's name/number (I use numbers in my room).  On the day I assign markers, I heavily emphasize that the markers are MINE, not theirs.  I explain multiple times that I am trusting them with my markers, and that they must be responsible with them.  Responsibilities include keeping the cap on when not writing, and not pushing too hard.  I also tell them that if they kill my marker, I will NOT give them a new one (more about this later).

Third, before every lesson in which we will use the markers, I give them two minutes of drawing time.  This is their opportunity to get the doodles out before they need to focus and learn.  I explain that if they use their markers to draw during learning time, they will lose the privilege of using them. Once learning time starts, we have a "magic word" that signals they can uncap their makers.  I ask for a volunteer to give me a "magic word," then I teach.  When they hear the "magic word," they can uncap the marker and follow directions.

Problem #3: The marker dries out!     

This solution is a bit trickier, and sometimes the solution is only a temporary one.  Using the needle nose pliers, pull the felt marker thingie (does it have a name?) completely out of the plastic sheath.

Flip it over, and insert it back into the plastic sheath.  It is easy to tell which end is which since one will be fuzzy and worn-down, and the other end will be sharp and clearly defined.  I have also heard that if you dip them in rubbing alcohol, they will work again.  I haven't tried this yet, so I don't know if it works or not.

Problem #4: The marker dies!  

Okay, you've tried all your tricks, and the marker is beyond saving.  I tried something this year, and am extremely pleased with the results so far.  My whiteboards are smooth on the back.  Before school started, I sprayed the backs with chalkboard spray (readily available in spray can form at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc).  One can covered 12 boards (each board needs 2-3 coats).  I didn't spray all the boards.

Now, if a student kills a marker, they flip over their whiteboard and I give them a piece of chalk.  At first, I was worried that they would want the chalk and purposely kill their markers.  This has not happened.  I have only had one student progress to this option, and he is not happy about it!  The chalk gets a bit messy (as older teachers can attest to!), but it can easily be cleaned up.

Now, if I can only stop this from happening!!  Maybe I need to assign them whiteboards, too.

I hope these suggestions help make your teaching life a bit easier.  If you know any useful tips, please share them by leaving a comment.

Oh, in case you're interested here is where I bought my whiteboards, and the erasers are make-up applicators bought at the dollar store.  They look like this:

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