Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Revamping My Dry Erase Marker System

Speaking of IKEA... This year I revamped my dry erase marker system with new storage and a new style of marker. For many years, my students used the fat dry erase markers with chisel tips when they wrote on white boards or wipe off envelopes (see previous post). They were just the ones I always purchased during back-to-school sales. The problem was that kindergarteners don't always have great fine muscle control yet, and the chisel tips got pushed in unintentionally (well, mostly unintentionally). You can pull the tips out with needle nose pliers, readily available at dollar stores, but they sometimes get smashed and it's one more thing to do in a busy day. I never knew which students were having this difficulty because I kept our dry erase pens in a communal basket, so I couldn't address the problem with the kids who needed it most.

So last summer I went on a hunt for a good marker holder so kids could easily see and grab a pen assigned to them individually. My daughters and I were in IKEA looking for the perfect pen tray when, Ah, ha! There it was! An ice tray, of all things. I immediately purchased half a dozen-- they were cheap-- and I knew I'd use them for SOMEthing, if not pens. They look like this:

IKEA classroom marker trays
Ice cube trays for some...
Yippee! Five markers lay perfectly in the spaces. In the photo below you see I turn the tray over so the pens just lay on top, but you can keep it right side up to hold six pens. I had to think a bit for a way to label the trays so there could be one for each table-- they are made of a rubbery plastic which nothing sticks to. The solution turned out to be the trusty old binder clip. I got smallish ones in multi-colors and clipped one to an edge of each tray, taking off the metal pincher grips on the clip once it was on there. We store them on a shelf and the kids just grab their tray and take it to their table. Works beautifully.
Ikea marker trays
Marker trays for me!

I gave each student their own pen, labeling it with their name and a colored smiley face sticker for quick recognition, and covering it with a twist of clear packing tape for durability. We're in the last quarter of the year now, and still less than half the class has needed a second marker thus far. How great being able to address marker use with those particular kids who were having trouble! And at this point in the year it is not a matter of kids not taking care of the markers, but just that we've used up the ink– we use them at least three times a week, I'd say. The kidpeople have taken very good care of their own pens. (Just FYI– When in IKEA last week I saw that these trays now come in a pretty blue color!)

The other little detail I stumbled upon through all this was to discover finer tip dry erase markers. Don't ask me why I didn't try these before- duh. The tips on the finer point pens make a more appropriate line than the fat ones, and are actually hardier than the chisel tips. This year I tried Expo and Lakeshore brands, and both work well. You can see them in the photo. Don't forget to shop the sales!

For dry marker erasers, I use old black sweatshirts, cut into small pieces. Black doesn't show the ink. If you don't have old sweatshirts you can buy a quarter yard of new fabric for very little money and cut it up. Micro fiber cleaning clothes work well, too, and are available at dollar stores. I've only found them in light colors though, and they tend to look quite dirty, quite quickly.

Hope these tips are useful to you. I'd love to hear!

The post Revamping My Dry Erase Marker System first appeared on kidpeopleclassroom.com


  1. Love this idea! We also use little black gloves and socks to erase because there are so many of them around without partners each year! They love it when I cut the fingers off the gloves and they can just cover one finger to erase!
    Whimsy Workshop Teaching

  2. Good idea. I love recycling stuff that way! I'm sitting on a bunch of single gloves right now, so I'll start chopping on Monday :) Thanks for sharing! And now, Susanna, I have two blogger questions for you, as I'm trying to figure out small details. Did you type in your url in the comment box, or did you have to make it a link another way? When I comment on other blogs, just my name as the commenter does not link to my blog, but to my google+ profile (as does yours, I see). I want people to be able to link to my blog with just my name, as I'm afraid bloggers will be annoyed if I include my website IN the comment... I don't mind at all that you did BTW, in fact I'm happy you did. Do you know if just our commenting name can be a link to our blog instead of to google+? Thanks, Kathleen

  3. Cool Idea! I was about Buy Pen Tray. Thanks for giving me a wonderful ideas on this. Keep exploring and sharing.