There was a time when a classroom had little more than some desks for the students, a chalkboard for the teacher, and a birch branch for the unruly. Those days are long gone. However, what sound pedagogy no longer permits in terms of arboreal discipline is more than made up for with all the types of media now available for your use: while many classrooms still have chalkboards, you can also use things like overhead projectors (if you’re going old-school), or DVD players, data projectors, and Wi-Fi (if you’re in the 21stcentury). Chances are, however, that the black/white board will continue its unchallenged reign for quite some time.
Writing on the board may seem like the simplest of tasks, and in many ways it is. It’s like writing with a pen on paper, except the paper is vertical and huge, and the pen is, well, a marker or chalk. Some tips:
- Write legibly. Forget cursive (as if anyone knows how to write that anymore!): print. If you’ve never used a board extensively before, consider getting to your classroom early on the ﬁrst day and trying a few test words to make sure you can read them from the back of the room.
- Write often. Writing on the board works as a great pro memoria for you students, and a handy reference tool for you. Keep in mind as well that, due to students’ different learning styles, some of your charges will be adept at processing and remembering spoken information while others do best by reading the written word.
- Erase everything. Before class (every class, not just the ﬁrst), erase the boards completely and thoroughly. A few stray words from the previous section can distract students for the entire ﬁfty minutes. This is especially true if the words are anatomical or palindromes—everyone loves palindromes. A man, a plan, a canal—Panama!
- Don’t erase so much. Try to use all of the board (assuming it’s visible to everyone, and without sacriﬁcing clarity) so that you don’t have to erase something in order to write something.
- Be organized. In general, try to start writing on the board at the left and work towards the right. Flawlessly logical. This is of course less important if you’re just writing a list of terms on the board or brainstorming or something like that, but a jumbled board makes for jumbled minds.
- Bring your own marker; invest in back-up chalk. Most rooms will have a few markers or a box of chalk lying around, but you can’t count on it. And really, what’s worse than a dried-up marker? Invest a couple of your hard-earned dollars in your writing instrument of choice, and you’ll be set for years of TFing.
- Talk while you write. If you’re writing a lengthy equation or explanation or series of terms on the board, try to keep speaking (or let a student speak) while you write. Dead time while you write on the board can really kill any rhythm you’ve worked up. Also, it’s boring to watch someone writing, and keeping your back turned for too long, while hip in a Miles Davis sort of way, is a bit off-putting. For advanced TFs and yoga masters only: the ¾-profile, talking-while-you’re-writing-and-looking-over-your-shoulder posture is a winner.
- Get out of the way. Once you’ve written something on the board, refer to it by pointing to it from the side while facing the class. If students can’t see it, why bother to put it on the board?
All That Other Fancy Stuff
The staff at the Teaching and Learning Service or the Center for Media and Instructional Innovation (CMI2) — both units of Yale’s Information Technology Services (ITS) [INSERT LINKS…once you find them these places]— can set you up with all sorts of neat gadgets you might need or want to use in your teaching. These include old-school overhead projectors, slides, VCRs, and data projectors for PowerPoint presentations, and newer technologies such as digital and media sharing tools, clickers, and more.
Make sure you contact ITS well in advance of your anticipated use date, just to make sure the equipment is available. Furthermore, try to get it delivered early if at all possible so that you can make sure you know how it works before students arrive. Fumbling around with a standard clicker makes you look a bit, well, simple, while coordinating your laptop and clicker questions makes you look awesome.