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Visual Aid: Board Work

2018/07/12

Visual Aid: Board Work


The board is one of the most overlooked visual aid tools these days since the advent of modern technology. Many have opted for the 'flashier' ways to teach. There are a tun of benefits, or I dare say, more benefits than traditional methods if technology is incorporated into the classroom as a visual aid.


Possibilities are almost endless with a computer, projector, smart board, and internet connection.


-The day's lesson theme and enlarged worksheets? ✔

-Worksheet samples and model answers? ✔

-Lovely illustrations and pictures as flashcards? ✔

-Video clips that model the language? ✔

-Students can interact with the material? ✔

-Notes for students and dot points for teachers? ✔

-Legible 'handwriting'? ✔


All can be done by simply using any word processor or presentation software. By using technology, the amount of data and material to be presented  in class dwarves that of using traditional chalk/marker, board, posters, paper, and flashcards.


However, even with all the advantages of implementing technology, it would be wise to train yourself to be able to run a class without the need for it. The image of Japan is high-tech in all walks of life, but the infrastructure of educational institutes are still quite archaic. Fax machines, anyone?


This piece of writing will give some tips on traditional teaching techniques. Keep in mind that running out of chalk is easily remedied, whereas a bug or technical problem can ruin the whole class if the lesson was planned around using technology.


So why in 2018 should the traditional method of chalk and board be upheld? For starters, it is readily available and inexpensive. All that is needed are the board, chalk/markers, and a cleaning cloth. Such simple tools will only be as effective as how they are used to present to the class. At the end of a 45-50min class, there are many ways the board could look . Here are four examples, and some tips. The board is...


1) ...blank: teacher may not be exploiting the language well, perhaps a little too reliant on speaking and listening. Remember that the majority of students do not understand what is being said. Count on no more than 10% of your 'gibberish' to be understood. Some visual aid is a must. Did you forget the flashcards for the target language? Simply draw/write them on the board.


Having the language there keeps everyone focused on the lesson objective. While it's there, it could also be marked for stressing pronunciation, etc.


2) ...covered with isolated language, diagrams, unfinished pictures, doodles, and all in one colour: teacher is disorganized in the way the material is presented and practiced. This type of board makes it difficult for both student and teacher to focus.


An idea is to use different coloured chalk. For example, one for highlighting stress in words, one for showing tense form changes, one for emphasizing key phrases, and so on.


Another idea is to split the board into sections. For example, small left side for day/date, objectives/grammar; large middle part for presenting and practicing; small right side for vocabulary and key points.


It is up to your imagination and style of teaching to organize the material in a way that is easy for both you and the students to digest.


3) ...has speling errers and/or the writing is small: teacher did not double-check the language on the board or lacks knowledge of the course content. When it comes to English in Japan, the expectation is that native English speakers with college-level education be able to spell perfectly. This is an outdated idea since everyone started using computers with auto spell checks so many years ago.


The art of handwriting is also disappearing. Japan has the same situation where people have poor kana handwriting, and are forgetting kanji.


The stress and pressure of teaching can make one prone to simple slips. Make it a habit to reed what you have just writtin on the bored. Be wary of your lettering size and style, too. Make sure you can read it from the back of the class, and if so, is it L39ib1e? Japanese students and most native English speakers nowadays neither study cursive writing, nor can read baD 4andwr1t1n9.


4) ...full from top to bottom: teacher has probably spent most of the lesson time writing, and possibly has had their back to the students for long spans of time. Students will eventually rely on written words and not listen to the teacher. We should be focused on teaching communicative English.


Check if everything needs to be there or not. See item 2 on ways to use the board effectively. If you must write, make sure you are least facing or half-facing the students. During "normal" presentations and speeches, it would be quite rude to turn one's back on the audience.


Closing thoughts:


Observe and reflect on your own presentation. Check your board work from the back of the classroom every once in a while. You may be surprised at the unexpected 'mess' you have made.


The board is an invaluable tool to use as a visual aid for teaching. Experiment and see what works best for your class style. You may discover that you prefer the simplicity of the chalk and board over any software that technology can bring to the class. I know I do!


"It's not what you have, but what you do with it" (various sources, origin unknown)

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