Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking

Dry Erase Markers 101 – Tips and Tricks to Make Your Life Easy

Do you use dry erase markers in your classroom?  If not, you should! I love dry erase markers!  They are great for formative assessment because they can be used in so many ways – for whole class instruction where students use dry erase mats to solve problems, for interactive games such as Jeopardy, in centers with worksheets, for guided math groups, and for group problem solving.

Tip 1

Students love using dry erase markers and they are more engaged whenever I use them. Unfortunately, every year I start out with a new supply of fresh beautiful markers, and before I know it, I have dried out markers, markers with broken or lost caps, and a tub where students have thrown them helter skelter without any organization.  Today, I want to share some tips and tricks I have for using dry erase markers and how they can make YOUR life easier. 

Tip 2

Dry erase markers and great to use during brainstorming and group problem solving.  I can give each student or group a dry erase mat and dry erase markers which saves me a bunch on paper!  You can buy dry erase mats, but I made these by laminating some paper placemats I found at Hobby Lobby, and they work great!  I got a set of 10 mats for $4.99 which is a steal for dry erase mats.

Tip 3

Kiddos love Jeopardy PowerPoint games.  I usually divide my class into four groups and give each group a dry erase paddle so they can hold up their paddle to display their answers.  I bought mine on Amazon, but you can find them in any school supply store.  They work great!  I got the bath mitts in this picture from Dollar Tree.  The littles love using them to erase their paddles and mats.  When one gets dirty, just pop it into the washer and it comes out nice and clean.

Tip 4

I am a HUGE Dollar Tree fan.  In addition to the bath mitts, I have bought facial scrub pads, magic erasers, and dish scrub pads to clean my dry erase boards.  You can also use old socks, cloth diapers, and baby washcloths.  I am sure your kiddos have tons of socks missing their mates and will be more than happy to donate them to the class.  I also bought a set of colorful sandwich boxes which hold five dry erase markers and a couple of mitts, so I can pass everything out to the students when we are using the markers.  No more tub you have to dig through to get a set for your class!   

Sometimes your boards get pretty dirty and need a thorough cleaning.  There are commercial dry erase board cleaners available at any office supply store, but there are also cheaper alternatives like rubbing alcohol, fingernail polish remover, and hairspray, 

Tip 5

Buying whiteboards is expensive, but there are cheaper alternatives.  You can buy a sheet of tile board (the boards used to line shower stalls) at your local home improvement store, and if you’re lucky, some nice store clerk will cut them up for you. One sheet is enough to make at least 24 boards and that’s a pretty good price.  I have also made very functional whiteboard paddles using poster board, duct tape, and a craft stick.  Here are the steps I followed to make the one shown in the picture.

  1. Fold a piece of poster board in half.  Next cut into the desired size, but make sure your piece is folded so you have two thicknesses of poster board.
  2. Laminate the pieces of poster board.
  3. Tape the edges with colorful duct tape.  
  4. Attach a craft stick handle to the back of the board using the duct tape.

These white boards worked great for me to use for class competitions and Jeopardy games.  They cleaned up pretty well.  Most will last for the entire school year.  In fact, I have had some that lasted up to three years.  

Tip 6

Don’t you hate duplicating worksheet for your students?  With dry erase sleeves, you can save a TON of paper!  I bought these sleeves from Amazon, and I love them because of their thickness.  I just print out ONE worksheet, pop it into a dry erase sleeve, and VIOLA! Instant Center!  What could be better than that?  If you don’t want to buy the dry erase sleeves, you can use sheet protectors.  They’re not as durable and sometimes when the kiddos are erasing the ink, they wrinkle, but they are an inexpensive alternative.

Tip 7

Did you know you can use dry erase tape on virtually anything!  I discovered dry erase tape about a year ago, and I am in LOVE!  You can use these for name plates for student desks, individual number lines, to put up your assignments for the day on your whiteboard.  I love that it is available in different colors.  You could use one color for language arts objectives or assignments, and a different color for math.  How about for a word wall?  You can just change up the words so easily – just wipe and write!  Please share any other ideas you have in the comments.  We’d love to hear from you!

Tip 8

One of the greatest frustrations I have had with dry erase markers is that the tips seem to dry out so quickly!  According to the Expo website, their markers should last you up to two years!  Wow!  I think two months was more like it for me, until I discovered that I was storing my markers the WRONG way.  If you store your markers with the caps up, they will dry out quickly! If you store them with the caps down, the ink will pool out of the pen when you  write.  So what is the RIGHT way to store your markers you ask?  HORIZONTALLY!

Now if you have a marker that a student tells you is dried out, you may be able to bring it back to life.  Here are the steps I have taken:

  • If you have been storing the marker with the tip up, store it horizontally for a couple of days and it might start working again.
  • Use a pair of pliers and take out the tip, turn it around, and reinsert it into the marker.  I didn’t know until I tried it that the tip of the marker is chiseled on both ends.
  • Lastly, use the power of centrifugal force and tie or tape a string to the bottom of the marker.  Then swing it around over your head.  The centrifugal force will force the ink back toward the tip.  I usually do this AFTER school so I don’t accidentally hit a kid on the head with a marker when I am swinging it around.  

Tip 9

I wish I had a penny for every marker that has a lost or broken cap.  When a cap broke, I tried EVERYTHING I could think of to save that marker and not let the tip dry out, including wrapping the marker in aluminum foil.  I am embarrassed to tell you how many years I taught before I learned this simple trick which also works for any markers you have in your room.  When a marker is ready for the marker graveyard, before you throw it away, save the cap.  Next time you have a marker with a broken or lost cap, you can pull a new one out.  Now,  I’m not saying all the cap colors will necessarily match the marker color, buy hey, at least it works!


I have a set of 6 matrix logic puzzles like the one shown in the picture above.  Just click on the picture to get your free set!

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hey y'all

I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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