Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Improving students' collaboration using acrylic sheets

I use mini (A4 size) whiteboards very frequently in my classroom. They are great for Assessment for Learning of course but I also find that students are happier to have a go at a tricky problem, safe in the knowledge that they can rub it out if something goes wrong.

However, these whiteboards are generally used on an individual basis and I wanted to find a way to increase collaboration without losing students' willingness to 'give it a go'.

For some time, I had been admiring the 'group whiteboards' that I had seen in blog posts by US teachers such as Fawn Nguyen but I could not find a source of these in the UK. (If you know of one, please let me know).

Then, one day last academic year, a colleague of mine suggested using sheets of acrylic (clear plastic) instead and this has turned out to be an idea of great genius!

We initially experimented with a single sheet of acrylic - cut to fit a standard classroom desk. We quickly confirmed that dry-wipe pens could be used to write on them and that they would also wipe clean again (although I advise you to avoid using red pen which is strangely stubborn!).

The 'eureka moment' was the realisation that, since the acrylic sheet is clear, we could place paper underneath it. This opened up a whole world of possibilities. The opportunity to place diagrams, pictures, sets of axes etc. underneath and to be able to write or draw on them while still being able to make changes or corrections seemed really powerful. Another bonus is that the paper resource remains clean so is reusable, saving money too!

We now have 16 acrylic sheets in the Maths Department which is enough for even our largest teaching groups to work in pairs and these are proving popular with both staff and students.

They have already been used for a variety of topics including:
  • Angles in parallel lines (see photo)
  • Circle theorems
  • Loci (to get the general idea without the precision of a pair of compasses)
  • Plotting graphs of various types
  • Solving simultaneous equations graphically
  • Graphing inequalities and regions
Using an acrylic sheet to work on the topic of angles in parallel lines.

I'm certain there are many more possibilities for using these acrylic sheets in Maths and colleagues from other subject areas have also seen ways that they could use these in their lessons. I hope to share more ideas about how to use these acrylic sheets in future blog posts.

If you'd like to know more or if you have any further suggestions or comments, please let me know.


  1. Glad you shared your "eureka!" filing the idea away....

  2. LOVE this! Where can you get these? Local hardware store?

    1. In the UK, we sourced these online from www.trentplastics.com. However I'm pretty sure you could also buy from a hardware or DIY store. I hope you find some!

  3. It is really wise that you shared your experience here about use of acrylic sheets. Impressive sharing.

  4. Acrylic Sheets are awesome. They can use in different things. Thanks for Sharing.