The Board: From the Students’ Point of View

When it comes to classroom presentations, it’s always good to keep in mind how your students will receive it. Classroom presentations have a strong element of staging. It matters how much you sit, where you choose to stand, how much you walk around, if you use facial expressions and hand gestures, how loud or soft you speak, what props you bring in, and the visual support you offer on the board. Ah yes, the board. It’s one feature of the classroom that’s been around for centuries, yet never has there been a strong emphasis on the need for teachers to learn to use it. Writing on the board is not something you just do; it’s something you must learn to do.

As I recall all the teachers I’ve had from elementary school to graduate school, I don’t think it’s likely that many of them ever stood back to view the content written on their boards, seeing it as we the students saw it. My sixth grade social studies teacher always wrote in longhand, unaware that one of the skills she taught us was how to decipher handwriting. Her unsteady scrawl probably contributed to my nearsightedness. Then there was my college history professor who almost always forgot that erasers were invented for a reason. She also tested my ability to decipher handwriting, and her relentlessly fast rate of speech coupled with too concise phrases on the board put my stomach in knots until I could borrow someone else’s notes to make sense of my own.  Finally, there were a few Russian language instructors who felt that good preparation meant writing everything on the board before class began. Walking into their rooms, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I was supposed to assimilate before the end of the lesson.

In the following entries, I’d like to share more practical thoughts on use of the board, be it the traditional blackboard or a sleek white board. (We’ll save PowerPoint presentations for another time.) I hope that my suggestions will translate into a more comprehensible, digestible, and enjoyable presentation for your students.

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