Effective boardwork

As teachers our most influential tool, other than ourselves of course, is our board.  It is often also the focal point of the classroom and so it is important that we make the most of our space.  Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of classroom cardinal sins and so I’d like to suggest some ways of making sure that as teachers we deliver effective board work.

The most important element to boardwork is implementing a clear, well organised board where students can clearly follow and record the key elements of the lesson.  While every teacher will have their own preferences of how to order their space, below I have listed the most important elements of effective boardwork.

A checklist: Signposting is such an important way of demonstrating and explaining why the activity you are doing is so important.  This can help in a number of ways, it gives a sense of purpose, it helps learners follow the lesson which is particularly helpful in the case of SEN learners, it shows that you as a teacher are prepared and have a plan and it allowed students who aren’t enjoying one particular activity to understand that there will be something else coming up later in the lesson.  I find that as a classroom management tool for young learners it is particularly useful as it helps them understand where they are and what they are doing as well as keeping them engaged in the lesson.

New vocabulary: It goes without saying that new vocabulary should be recorded on the board, with its correct pronunciation of course but it’s also important to record it in context, not just as singular vocabulary items but in a sentence ideally with a strong collocation in order for it to be meaningful when your students return to it outside of the lesson.

Incentive/discipline zone: I find that this is particularly important for teens and YLs.  If you have behavioural issues in your class by assigning a section of the board to an incentive or disciplinary scheme serves as a constant reminder to students that their behaviour is being monitored and there is a direct consequence to their actions.  See my other article for details of ways to incentivise a rowdy class.

A large, clear working space: When presenting the bulk of your lesson you should ensure that you are using the main bulk of your board in the best way possible. Think of how you like to see new information. Are your boards in keeping with your own personal preferences? Are you making the most of negative space for visual impact? Is your handwriting clear to avoid students recording mistakes when copying?

Processing Time: Another seemingly obvious thing to remember but that I often see overlooked is allowing students the time to copy things from the board.  If you do an engaging and interactive language presentation, hopefully the students will be so involved with what you are doing that they aren’t even thinking about copying it down.  So make sure you allow time within your lesson plans for students to copy down (or photograph depending on your personal preferences) your board work.

KISS (Keep it simple for students): Too much information is going to end up being at best confusing and at worst demotivating.  Therefore, think carefully about what actually needs to be boarded.  Think of your board like a sandwich, what information is key (the bread) and what information is just filling? Remember that while we need filling to make a sandwich, too much and it goes everywhere and not in our mouths! So be selective about what you share, this should also help your presentation skills too as you won’t find yourself frantically writing.

Is effective boardwork an area that you need to improve on? What are your board tips?


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