Although there are numerous visual aids that the modern ESL teacher can use in the classroom (Smart Whiteboards, overhead projectors, PowerPoint presentations, etc.), the board is still an effective and valuable teaching tool that can be used in many different ways at different stages in a lesson. Even in classes where the teacher uses a PowerPoint presentation or any other type of technology, there could be a need for jotting down some words on the spot to show spelling or pronunciation, or simply for underlining some key concepts on the board.
Advantages – Using the Board
In her book Using the Board in the Language Classroom (2002), Jeannine Dobbs points out that ‘using the board in our classes has many advantages: it encourages students to remember what they hear, allows teachers to illustrate and clarify information, and increases the students’ interest about the input they receive’.
When to Use the Board
The board can be used in many different ways and stages in an ESL lesson. You can use it in a warm-up section when you want the class to brainstorm ideas or words related to a word or question, or in the practice stage when you want to give feedback after your students have completed a chart with missing information. In a revision session, the board can be useful when you want to explain the structure and use of a tense through a tense timeline with examples, or when you want to present vocabulary and you write a word or draw a picture to elicit meaning. You may also want to use it to give feedback or summarize the main teaching points of the lesson.
How to Use the Board
There is no doubt that using the board in the classroom has many advantages and uses. However, it is also important to plan how to organize the board in advance, especially if you are a beginner teacher.
When preparing your lesson, visualize or make some notes on how you would like the board to look at the end of the lesson or a period. This will help you organize your ideas, know where you will write different data on the board, and it will also help you imagine what your students will see when they look at the board.
It is essential to use the board in a competent and efficient way. One of the reasons for saying so is that your students will copy what you have written on the board in their notebooks, even if you do not tell them to do so. If the board is too crowded or your handwriting too scruffy, they may copy the incorrect words or information.