When I just started teaching, my lessons were often observed by the Director of Studies and other experienced teachers. Their feedback was incredibly useful for me and I will always remember the first feedback from my lesson observation: “areas to work on: boardwork. Try to plan board work”. I was so overwhelmed trying to control TTT, follow my lesson plan and manage the discipline in the class, that I completely forgot about boardwork, to be honest, my board is often a mess. Why is boardwork so important?
Try to put yourself in students’ shoes for a moment and choose the board below that would work better in the lesson? What do you see when you look at these boards:
What don’t you like in the first picture? Does the second one seem to be better? The board is the crucial teaching tool, if the board is well organised it will be easier for students to keep track of the lesson. What is more, most students have visual memory so well-structured and neat board with colour coding will help them remember the material better.
Here are some tips to improve your boardwork:
1. Plan your boardwork for the lesson in advance so that you don’t need to write some target language twice or avoid the situations when you erase something you actually planned to use further. Divide your board into sections. Have one part which can be cleaned off and re-used. Use another part for the information which you can refer to during the whole lesson (aims of the lesson, vocabulary, grammar). You can also have a section for errors, homework, discipline record.
You can have an area where you list new vocabulary, an area for the presentation part of your lesson, one for the homework and so on.
Don’t hesitate to wipe the board clean of any language which is not strictly necessary and it’s not necessary to board absolutely everything that comes up during the lesson. Your board shouldn’t be too crowded or it can be overwhelming for your students.
2. Your students shouldn’t suffer from trying to decode your handwriting, that’s why keep your board neat and letters big enough. Make sure that the writing stays clear and readable — black or blue ones are better.
3. Use different colours to highlight different type of information to make your board clear and easy to understand. Keep your colour coding consistent, for example, red colour relates to mistakes, problematic areas and important information, green to pronunciation, etc.
4. Try to avoid long teacher-writing times while students are just watching and waiting for you to finish. Print the word/phrases/sentences and stick them up on the board when necessary. Printed cards with vocabulary save time and can be easily reused throughout the lessons. Whenever possible, write things up on the board while the students are working on other things.
5. Your students should have a clear, uninterrupted view of the board. Be careful that you don’t block learners sitting at the sides of the room. When you write something on the board move away quickly so that students can see what you have written or develop the ability to write on the board while still facing students.
6. Practise quick board sketches. You need to be able to draw pictures to illustrate some vocabulary and for setting some activities quickly. Draw in shapes.
7. Be consistent in drawing timelines. The horizontal line represents time while the vertical line — now, the future is on the right side, the part is on the left. A cross represents a single, complete action, a wavy line shows a continuous action, a straight line demonstrates the duration of an action, question marks show that the action doesn’t have specific time:
Find more activities working with boards here .
Maintaining good boardwork practice is a simple way we can help our students learn. Creating a clear board during the lesson provides a clear record of the lesson and the language learnt which will help our students study and remember the language of the lesson.
What are your classroom management areas to work on?