Here are a few quick tips for TEFL teachers on using your blackboard or whiteboard or interactive whiteboard in class.
Face the Class
Don’t stand with your back to the class!
Doing this is an opportunity for them to tune out and start talking.
While you are writing on the board, stand at an angle so that the class will see your face while you talk and write. It’s less convenient than standing with your back to the class but it’ll allow you to talk and write at the same time, ensuring your students see you while you write; and of course it also means that you can see them.
If you are right handed, stand so that your right hand can reach the board without crossing your body. If you are left handed, stand so your left hand can reach the board without crossing your body. Move along the board as you write, taking steps as you go along.
If you have something very important to say, stop writing and face them full face forward. Otherwise, while you write, make sure they see you.
Clean the Board
There are three very good reasons for this.
- When you want the students to be able to focus on what you write, a clean board enables just that. If the board is clean, the students can easily see what the focus of the lesson is.
- It’s courteous to the next teacher who comes into the classroom to use the board.
- It means that if you’ve made a mistake on the board (spelling or otherwise) then the next teacher who comes into the classroom won’t see it!
Quick Cleaning Tip 1: for a blackboard you can use a damp cloth. If you find ‘ghost’ marks on a whiteboard sometimes a damp cloth will be fine but a little white vinegar (mixed with water) will help. In fact, almost any solvent or household cleaner is fine followed by a wipe down with some dry newspaper. By the way, don’t use your hands to wipe the board; it doesn’t look good and will end up getting your clothes and hands dirty.
Quick Cleaning Tip 2: if someone has used a permanent marker on the board which won’t come off, just use a normal board marker on top of the permanent marks and then the normal board eraser will remove them all.
There’s nothing worse than tiny writing on the board which the students at the back can’t see. Make sure that you write in large, clear letters. When you have a few moments in an empty classroom write a few sentences and then go to the back and see if what you’ve put up is legible and visible.
You may need to work on making your writing straight as well. It doesn’t look good when it starts to climb up or down the board as you write.
Organizing Your Board
The board is an excellent tool but you have to use it correctly.
Make sure whatever you put on the board is clearly placed and organized. It can’t be scattered around the board because the students won’t be able to make heads or tails of it.
Once you finish working on something, unless you need it for something, clean it off so that it’s not a distraction any more.
Also, remember that many of your students’ first language may not use a Latin alphabet and many languages don’t read from left to right. Directionality is a huge issue for students whose language reads in a direction different to English and the board is an excellent opportunity to help with this.
- Always start your lesson on the left hand side of the board and work your way to the right.
- Always write your letters correctly on the board, from top to bottom and left to write.
- Always make sure your activities are organized from left to right on the board, even if you are placing flashcards on the board, do so from left to right.
For Interactive Whiteboards
- Get to know your software. You don’t want to be trying to learn how to do something while you are standing in front of an expectant class so make sure you have a good practice session beforehand!
- Don’t get carried away by visuals. Make them pertinent and useful, not merely decorative.
- Keep it Simple. Don’t reveal huge swathes of text or visuals but keep things simple and show key information slowly. In other words, don’t put up distractions.