“Take a Number” Teaching: My Magic Number System

Image Source: Silverfuture on Flickr

Since I started teaching, I’ve always wanted one of those “take a number” systems you see at the deli.   I’d use it to form a line for asking questions, getting supplies, or more recently, taking turns at the interactive whiteboard. Each of these activities have threatened my sense of order and organization and would benefit from students taking a number.

This year, I decided to tackle this challenge with a similar take-a-number solution, and came up with “Magic Numbers” to help organize our interactive whiteboard time.  Magic Numbers is a low-tech visual system that lets the students keep track of whose turn is next.

Here’s how it works in my classroom: On days when we use the interactive whiteboard, I distribute cards with numbers written on them. Or I’ll simply ask students to take the numbered cards from their corresponding numbered pockets, which are secured to a “Magic Numbers” poster board, and sit back at their seats to work on their artwork.

Magic Number System

To begin the interactive whiteboard activity, the student holding No. 1 approaches the board, puts his/her card in the No. 1 pocket and proceeds to the interactive whiteboard activity. The student holding No. 2 sees the visual cue that s/he is next. To keep things moving smoothly, I have two students stand-up at the board — one student is working with the interactive whiteboard while the other student is “on deck”. This helps facilitate quick transitions onto the interactive whiteboard and minimize wasted time.

To make your own Magic Number system here are the supplies you need:

1. Cardboard or matte board (to which you attach the pockets)
2. Library book pockets (pockets can also be found at local teacher supply stores)
3. Clear packaging tape to secure pockets to board.
4. Two sets of laminated magic numbers (one to be attached to the library pocket and the other set attached to a card that can slide in and out of the pocket)

Theresa McGee

Hello! My name is Theresa McGee and I am a National Board Certified Art Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator teaching in Hinsdale, Illinois. My curriculum is structured around creative thinking and technology integration into the learning process. I have authored eighteen articles for the Tech4ArtEd Column in SchoolArts Magazine and several iTunes U courses for professional development. I've presented at the state and national levels including several online webinars for art educators. In 2010, I was awarded Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year and in 2011 I was awarded the national PBS Teacher Innovator award. I love to share ideas that contribute to the art education profession!


  • June 24, 2011


    I love this idea!!! Thank you so much for sharing it…I have a feeling this will be a new addition to my room in the Fall.

  • June 25, 2011

    Connie Z.

    The “on deck” concept is really helpful, thanks for sharing. Any kind of board work can benefit from this, esp. for my high school students too cool to show any enthusiasm. Thanks.

  • August 16, 2011

    Michelle Petrucci

    Theresa, this is a great idea! I am currently teaching workshops on using the interactive whiteboard in the art classroom, and I am interested to hear what kind of activities you do with your students (that is, if you are willing to share!)

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