We actually have an advantage over our predecessors who taught half a century ago or earlier. We live in the age of computers and word processors, so we understand concepts such as bullets, call-out boxes, and font color. While all of this high tech formatting is transferrable to a chalkboard, it definitely has more vibrancy (and less mess) on a white board. Just as a pilot has a flight check before take-off, I always run through a basic checklist of what I need to get a lesson airborne and to its final destination. Along with my ever-present bottle of water, my checklist includes an eraser and 2-3 markers of different colors (that aren’t dried out).
With a white board and an array of colored markers, teachers need to learn the basics of graphic design.
- Always maintain some white space. Don’t attempt to use 100% of your canvas. Have margins.
- Don’t crowd your lines of writing. Maintain equal spacing between lines of writing that create a whole text.
- Consider the appropriate font size: don’t make your letters too big or too little.
- Go easy on your students’ eyes when you choose your main color: I prefer black or blue.
- It’s hard to mimic the italicized or boldfaced text we have on our computers, so I use a second color for highlighting. A key word or phrase can be written in the second color, making it stand out from the main one. Highlighting can be also done with underlining, circling, or stars. (No need for all three!)
- When similar sets of information are given (e.g. vocabulary words with their respective parts of speech and word families), I use a combination of color and indenting. At all times, keep it simple. Too much color and the resulting rainbow detracts from the content. An overuse of bullets will turn your visual presentation into a connect-the-dot game gone awry. The key is to be consistent and minimalist.
Summary: Transfer your formatting skills in word processing to the board. Color, indenting, spacing, bullets, and highlighting can be very effective when used consistently and simply.