Whiteboard Doublestack

It’s been a while since I shared a low prep/no prep activity, but I was recently reminded of the fun and the mileage of this one, so it’s time to share. Whiteboard Doublestack is a nice consolidation game or middle-of-unit (if you have those) activity, including both input and output, that I saw Nancy Llewellyn do in 2008 and have enjoyed ever since. As I often do, I’ll describe the basic procedure and then suggest a bunch of variations and applications.

(Note: If you’re waiting for the next installment in the Goals series, know that part of the reason for the recent delay in posts is my research into goal-setting, habit-building, and accountable-holding. I hope to share insights from that exploration soon!)


Whiteboard Doublestack: The Basic Procedure

After students have encountered a decent amount of relevant input, invite them each to write a two-part sentence in a given format. For instance,

(1) If I lived in Iceland, (2) I would pearl-dive in the hot springs.

(1) When you’ve finished breakdancing, would you please (2) turn off the lights?

(1) After a satisfying meal, I like (2) to frolic among the shrubberies.

(1) Unless I find a second shovel, I will (2) sad-nap until 6:00 p.m.

(1) My favorite food is artichokes because (2) I like prickly green things.

Here’s the twist. Each student writes part (1) on one mini-whiteboard and part (2) on another. Then all whiteboards containing (1) are stacked together, while all the boards containing (2) are stacked with each other, and one of the stacks is shuffled.


The Payoff

Pick up the top board in pile (1) and read it aloud, followed by the top board in pile (2). This creates a goofy non sequitur while providing targeted input. By the end, students will have heard 15-35 sentences in the targeted format.


Variations and comments
  1. If you don’t have enough whiteboards for every student to use two, students can work in pairs. They can come up with both parts together, or one students can come up with part (1) and the other student with part (2).
  2. If you don’t have any whiteboards, students can write their sentences on notecards, loose paper, potsherds, philodendron leaves, or anything else writeonable–but everything is more fun with mini-whiteboards.
  3. Because you are the one handling the whiteboard stacks and reading the sentences, you can make tweaks on the fly–correcting or shortening what students have written–to make sure that students receive high-quality input.
  4. You can reshuffle one of the stacks multiple times and read new pairs of sentences to give students even more encounters with the language.
  5. Instead of stacking the sentence parts, spread out all the boards with part (1) in one section of the room and the boards with part (2) in another. Have students try to either (a) figure out which parts went together (you can make this less obvious by instructing students to write each part in a different color) or (b) come up with the funniest combinations they can. Then read the newly constituted sentences and see what students think.
  6. Pretty much any kind of subordinate or coordinate clause works with Whiteboard Doublestack.
  7. Feel free to pick any of the resulting sentences, ask follow-up questions about it, discuss its logicality, play Good Idea/Bad Idea, co-create a story based on it with your students, have students share how they might have ended the sentence, etc.
  8. If you like to get your students to use stock sentence frames, or are required to do so by your employer, this is a good way to do it. Even if this doesn’t apply to you, Whiteboard Doublestack is a way to give your students a bunch of quick encounters with word chunks, especially if you ask follow-up questions that use or elicit the same chunks.
  9. This activity turns out to be fun enough to be regularly reusable. You can do it with different types of sentences throughout the year.


Have you used Whiteboard Doublestack or something like it? Share your discoveries and ideas!


Posted in Lesson Plans, Teaching and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Nice! I do this with my 5th graders at the end of our unit on prepositions, when I introduce “in + ablative.” After they’ve gotten a bunch of reps with words in various declensions, I pass out the whiteboards and have one group of kids write subjects, one group write verbs, and one write “in ______” (sometimes I have a few kids do direct objects if the number is off). Then we stack them and read them, and they LOVE it! We call it silly sentences, and they ask to do it often. This year I gave them a lot more CI with ablatives before this activity, and was amazed (though not surprised) at how they just knew what word forms sounded right after “in,” without too much formal explanation of patterns.

  2. Do you have them write the sentences in English or in Latin? I’m new to conversational Latin and am trying to make that jump, but am having some hard time putting the pieces together for myself before I try doing it with my students.

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