Published 19th December 2016

When you start teaching there are so many things you need to keep in your mind – teacher talk time, presentation, practice, production, classroom management, and so on – that it can feel overwhelming. What usually happens is that we can focus on one aspect of our teaching at a time but then we neglect the others. So while we may be vigilant about monitoring the students, we can forget how to give instructions clearly.

If you can identify with this, don’t worry: it’s normal. It takes time to keep your wits about you and be able to handle all the aspects of teaching at the same time while you’re standing at the front of the classroom. However, there is one very important skill of teaching which many new teachers forget about: boardwork.

The board is an integral part of an English as a Foreign Language classroom. Regardless of how technology-equipped the classroom is, the board is the most basic and most fundamental item of furniture in the classroom. As we are dealing with language which comes out of our lessons and which is brought up by our students, we never know exactly what is going to be written on our board. The one thing we can do is to plan what our board is going to look like in general so that we can be sure that whatever we write on it will be clear and effective.

If the board is clearly divided into sections, it will be easier for your students to keep track of the lesson. Have an area where you list new vocabulary, an area for the presentation part of your lesson, one for the homework and so on. Because your board is a record of the lesson and your students are likely to write down whatever is put on the board, so be selective in what you board – and make sure your spelling is correct!

Don’t be afraid to wipe the board clean of any language which is not strictly necessary and it’s not necessary to board absolutely everything that comes up during the lesson. Your board shouldn’t be too crowded or it can be overwhelming for your students. Using colour is an easy way to make your board clear and easy to understand – as long as you use colour consistently. Keeping your systems consistent will also help your students get to know what your colours refer to; for example, red relates to pronunciation, green is new vocabulary.

Maintaining good boardwork practice is a simple way we can help our students learn. Creating a clear board during the lesson provides a clear record of the lesson and the language learnt which will help our students study and remember the language of the lesson.

Don’t be afraid to wipe the board clean of any language which is not strictly necessary and it’s not necessary to board absolutely everything that comes up during the lesson. Your board shouldn’t be too crowded or it can be overwhelming for your students. Using colour is an easy way to make your board clear and easy to understand – as long as you use colour consistently.