In my 7th grade classroom, kids constantly ask to write on my whiteboard. I have Expo markers in every color of the rainbow and then some. I used to own scented dry erase markers (in flavors such as chocolate mint) but I found myself gagging, which got in the way of my teaching. Nonetheless, my school board is a magnet for messages, drawings and other self-expression. Kids like to create, erase and re-create.
That's why I think every household should have a whiteboard.
When working on our family project, we used a portable whiteboard to help bring our ideas to life. We carried it from the upstairs office to the screened porch or to the dining room as needed to help us capture our thinking. After all, thinking as a family (as opposed to thinking as an individual) requires several elements:
- First, both younger voices and older voices must be heard. When brainstorming or sorting or ranking or anything, writing down everyone's ideas affirms and validates those concepts and the people who offered them. Every idea has merit when it is written in blue or black or orange or lilac.
- Second, writing ideas on the board allows undeveloped or underdeveloped concepts to bloom and grow. The Project Zero team at Harvard's Graduate School of Education calls this process “making thinking visible.” Once ideas are externalized on the board, the kernels can be shaped and improved.
- Third, writing ideas on the board preserves them so that further reflection and refinement can happen and so that family plans can be taken to the next step. Our family began each meeting by "reviewing the bidding": remembering the agreements we had made and the items that remained open. For example, once we had voted to make an investment in the developing world, we were able to document it, and later to confirm that organizations that served only U.S. populations were out of our scope. This helped us move forward and not re-plod over ground we'd already covered.
A whiteboard can make your work fun and accelerate your progress toward a democratic and workable family project.