Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hack Your Classroom Space: DIY Whiteboard Tables!

My major summer project this year was painting the classroom tabletops with whiteboard wipe-off paint! I thought that it would be a great addition to the classroom because:
  1. It's a novelty - who doesn't like to write on furniture?!
  2. It encourages collaboration - my students work in table groups, so they can easily work together to brainstorm or diagram.
  3. It provides a different kind of hands-on activity - we use our Chromebooks so much in computer class, it's nice to have an "unplugged" activity once in a while!
  4. It addresses multiple intelligence philosophies - visual learners who like to draw or write out notes and ideas by hand get the opportunity to do so. 
I was super lucky to win a grant from our district's education foundation at the end of last year, which will allow for the purchase of "rocker" stools and a set of beanbag chairs for the classroom. I felt like giving the tables a fun face-lift was the perfect complement to the new furniture. Thankfully, I had enough money left over after the furniture purchase that the education foundation was willing to fund the supplies for this project, so long as I was willing to put in the work.

I did a lot of research prior to beginning this project. I used this tutorial for the bulk of my instructions (thanks, Pinterest!). I also read a whole lot of Amazon product reviews to determine the best paint for the job. I learned that it is a good idea to buy your paint in-person (I went to Home Depot) rather than ordering online, as you are able to open the boxes and check the manufacture date... Apparently this paint is good for 2 years from the date of manufacture, and after that, you should not use it. Whether or not this is true, I do not know, but I wasn't going to take a chance!

I bought two of these cans of wipe-off whiteboard paint, and a foam roller/tray set, like this. I also grabbed a couple rolls of blue painter's tape to tape off the edges of the tables. It cost me less than $80 for all of the supplies. Not too bad.

I came in to school the week after students were let out. It took me an entire school day's worth of time to complete this project by myself, but if you had a friend, you could probably knock it out a little faster? In the end, my timing worked out really well because it allowed for adequate dry time between coats, and then the tables had the entire rest of summer to cure before we attempted to write on them!

Here's how the paint works: it comes in two parts, which you mix together before painting on. Once the paint is mixed, you have only an hour or two to apply it before the paint is no longer any good. So there's no saving paint for touch-ups, unfortunately. The plan for now is that I'll probably buy a new can of paint and do a refresher coat at the end of this year to prepare for the next.

I did have the presence of mind to take some photos as I worked, so that you can see the transformation as it happened:

The first thing that I did was give the tabletops a really good clean/wipe down with some disinfecting wipes, and let them dry. Then I began the somewhat time-consuming task of taping off the edges. Depending on what your tables look like, you may or may not choose to do this step. Even though it took me a while, I feel like it was really worth the effort.

The tables in my room have a vinyl/plastic-y rounded edge trim, and I think it would look weird if I painted it. Not to mention, I'm not sure how well the paint would stick. 

I ended up applying 4 coats overall. Coat #1 was not full coverage, so don't panic if you see streaks on your first go-round. I painted all seven tables with coat #1 before moving on to coat #2. By the time I finished table #7, the first table was generally dry enough to start the second coat. 

I also had a box fan running in the room, pointed at the tables as I worked to help speed the drying process between coats.

I ended up using ALL of the first can of paint, and a good majority (but not all) of my second can of paint. I made four rounds/four coats of paint on each table before I called it quits. 

For those interested, my tables are about 30 inches wide, and 60 inches (5 feet) long. 

The foam roller was really important because it helped to create a very smooth, even coat overall, suitable for a writing surface.

Originally, the tabletops were a speckled light gray color. Painting the tops with this glossy wipe-off paint made everything look clean, fresh, and new!

I left my room like this, all summer, so the tabletops could cure properly before we tried writing on them. I did (carefully) peel off the blue tape when I was finished painting at the end of the day. Peeling off paint while paint is still wet seems to be effective for getting cleaner lines. If I peeled it off after the paint was dry, I might end up peeling up some of the tabletop paint along with the tape!

Once our new year began, I was super eager to test out the new tables. While I was setting up the room a few days before school started, I gave my 4-year old son, Iggy, some markers and an eraser to try it out. Success! 

I'm so happy with how these turned out, and I highly recommend "hacking" your own classroom furniture using this method! 

We used our tabletops to do a "complete-the-sentence" activity in 8th grade involving similes. It was easy for students to look across the room and see what their classmates had written, as opposed to being hidden behind a screen. Many students had fun embellishing their responses with drawings and designs:

via Instagram
I did discover some really awesome dry-erasers that work amazingly well with my tabletops. These erasers by 3M have two sides to them: a grippier, scrubby side, and a smooth side. I have found that when using these erasers, students can get a completely clean tabletop at the end of class! Score!

Side note: If you are viewing my blog from within the district, it seems that my former photo hosting site is blocked this school year, so all of my past images are not showing up/have broken/blocked links. Whomp whomp. Sorry about that. I'm working to find a solution to this as soon as possible. 

- Mrs. L.


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