As much a part of the classroom as the teacher and students themselves, the whiteboard is where a great deal of learning is imparted—or is it where utter chaos reigns?
Why use a whiteboard at all?
When looking to improve your whiteboard skills, always go back to the basics of why we use them in the first place. Druuuuuuumroll—A whiteboard’s purpose is to aid learning. It should never impede students from learning.
Whiteboards are there to:
• to be a visual aid
• to concentrate attention
• to demonstrate and illustrate
• to organize information
To up your whiteboard game, start with these four tips from Marc Kets, Director of Academic Management for EF North America.
1. Be organized
As teacher, your behavior in the classroom sets a precedent for your students. If you are late, they will be also. If you are impolite or blase about learning, they will follow suit. Similarly, if your boardwalk is organized, your students’ workbooks will be too. Marc recommends teachers divide their board as follows:
- Write your aim at the top
- Set aside the right quarter column of your board to add target vocabulary that appears throughout the lesson (you can even draw a dividing line to section off this part of the whiteboard)
- Add an error-correction section at the bottom third (again, draw a dividing line) where you add incorrectly used grammar, vocabulary, etc to revisit at the end of class
- What’s left is your “working space”
This way students can easily identify relevant content during each class, which helps them record and locate it in their own notebooks. Having a dedicated error-correction corner also encourages participation and increases students’ confidence by not singling out any individual person when they make a mistake.
2. Be consistent
Whatever board organization strategy you choose, apply it consistently in each class. Your students will quickly expect to see material organized this way and will learn what information is important by your whiteboard set up—without you having to say “Guys, write this down, this is important.”
3. Use your whiteboard to teach what is important
Throughout a lesson there is content which is crucial, while other information is “the road taken” to get to what is essential. By structuring your boardwork well, you will be able to easily position important, take-home information for your students to record. Referring back to Marc Kets’ recommended structure, the right-hand quarter column dedicated to vocabulary and phrases contains all the crucial content. If you are consistent, you’ll soon see that students actively focus their attention on the “important content”, or even start to take pictures of this section of the whiteboard, to have an instant record of the lesson’s major points.
4. Keep it neat
As with organization, if your whiteboard layout is neat students are very likely to follow suit in their notebooks. Neat whiteboard handwriting (we know it takes practice!) also helps you during class at those moments when, mid-lesson, you need to refer back to a previous point to illustrate or flesh out a current one. Knowing where things are on the board (because, thanks to points 1 and 2 you are being organized and consistent) pays off big time!
Got a scribbly, scrawly whiteboard act going on? With these first simple approaches you can clean up your boardwork starting tomorrow. The benefits? Your students will keep neater and more organized workbooks and more easily understand the lesson’s material.