On the third day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  three board pens

Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration!  Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:

and three board pens.  Those of us lucky enough to have avoided the perils of working with chalk and chalkboards (Handy Hint number #01 – don’t wear black), but whose schools haven’t quite made it to the 21st century, will be familiar with the four primary colours of teaching:  the Black, Blue, Green and Red board pen selection.

The colour choice does slightly give the lie to the post title “three board pens”, but the focus of this post is more about board work than colour choices and personally I avoid using the blue board pens as much as possible because they (a) tend to stick to the board more than the other colours and be harder to clean (b) dry out more rapidly thus becoming more useless more rapidly.

I have heard of teachers using colour coding for parts of speech (blue for nouns, green for adjectives etc) , or to indicate correct (black) or incorrect (red) sentences.  This seems like a lot of work to me – though never having tried it I can’t really comment either way.  I do use colour coding when presenting a language form, for example:

+             HAVE +PAST PARTICIPLE  ( I have eaten the chocolate.)
–              HAVEN’T + PAST PARTICIPLE  (I haven’t eaten the chocolate.)
?             HAVE + PRONOUN + PAST PARTICIPLE (Have you eaten the chocolate?)

But that for me, is as far as it goes!

What I find more difficult personally, is board work organisation.  I understand the value of doing it – keeping things in the same places, so that learners always know where to look for the information they need – but I struggle to achieve this on a lesson by lesson basis.

I also wonder whether my lack of an organized approach to board work has a negative impact on the learners – in as much as they don’t know what to write down or when to write it down unless given explicit instructions.

So I’m going to try an experiment which will (a) force me into a greater degree of organization (b) hopefully encourage the learners to write stuff down more!  I’m going to try giving my learners an A4 handout which mimics the layout of the board that I intend to use.

It might look something like this (only with gridlines to delineate the sections):

Lesson Menu:
(New) Language:

Topic and Date are fairly self-explanatory, as is the homework section, which could serve two purposes – the homework task for that lesson and the names of any students who failed to hand in the last lessons’ task!

(New) Language:  I’m using the term “language” rather than vocabulary because it covers a wider multitude of sins – and also to try and move learners away from the idea of single item vocabulary and more towards “chunks” of language.

Lesson Menu:  probably familiar to many people and something I drift in and out of using – essentially a running order of activities for the lesson.  I don’t usually have more than six stages written up, regardless of how many stages are in the plan and I try to talk learners through the lesson menu at the start of the class, so they can see how the tasks connect to each other.

Other Handy Board work Tips?

I had a look around to see what other people had to say on this – it’s quite a sparsely discussed area!

Two great sites emerged however:

Sue Clark has a great article on “Using the Board” on the British Council Teaching English site.  It does focus on “using” the board rather than just board work, though Sue does discuss that as part of the piece.

David Deubelbeiss has a handy slideshow video with tips and advice on maximizing your use of the board on the eflclassroom site.

Definitely worth reading what both these posts have to say!