The Chalkboard Teaching Aid

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1.1 The Chalkboard

Chalkboards are not just grown 'scribbling pads'. Effective use of a chalkboard does not occur accidentally, it has to be planned and the basic techniques must be practiced. The chalkboard is one of the oldest and most famous teaching aids and it is essential for all educators to master the technique of using it. Although they may be used informally for explaining a problem or for a quick calculation for the whole class to see what is going on, they can be put to much better use.
Before a class commences, a whole scheme can be set out on the chalkboard. Sketches can be made or simply outlined and if they are sliding chalkboards, one can be prepared and left one behind the other and then slid into place at the appropriate moment. The same can be done with folding boards, which can be opened as the class proceeds. A chalkboard provides the educator with an inexpensive and adaptable visual aid that lasts indefinitely. All that is required for its continued use is a ready supply of white and colored chalk.

1.2 The uses of the chalkboard

  • A framework of the lecture may be set out on the board and can then be filled in during the class. Sections of the framework can be rubbed out for revision purposes, the students are then required to fill in the missing parts.
  • It provides a means of progressing from simple to complex ideas and developing each explanation point by point.
  • Diagrams, symbols, charts and even more complicated drawings can be added at the appropriate time to bring life and meaning to the subject.
  • Space is provided for the lecturer to record suggestions from the students as the class proceeds.
  • Questions or problems to be discussed can be listed on the board. New or difficult words can be written down so that the students can copy them or become familiar with them.
  • Tests can be written up on the board.
  • It provides a space upon which students can be asked to illustrate explanations so that the entire class can participate in what is being said.
  • A few, sometimes evocative words which serve as 'mind grabbers' and to rivet attention can be written on the board.

1.3 Effective chalkboard utilization

  • Writing and drawing should be sufficiently large, clear and visible to all.
  • The entire surface of the chalkboard must be visible to all.
  • Work to be covered should be organized into sections with appropriate headings. The writing of one section should npt run into another section.
  • Plan ahead as to how it will be used during a class. Lecture notes could include reminders of what to put on the board, when and how.
  • Erase work as soon as its usefulness to the lesson has been expended.
  • Where possible, summaries, words, sentences, figures or diagrams should be put up as they arise in the lesson. Label an elaborate drawing or diagram clearly as the lesson unfolds.
  • Boards and felt erasers should be kept clean.
  • Lighting should be as such to prevent glare.
  • Lecturers should take care to speak to the class and not to the board.

Effective writing and drawing on the chalkboard

  • Write so that all lines are horizontal. Use a liner if your handwriting tends to slope. Light lines or a few dots can be drawn on the board beforehand to help keep writing straight. Practice corrects this tendency.
  • To help prevent squeaking chalk, hold the chalk between forefinger and thumb with about 2.5 cm projecting upwards towards the board. An angle of approximately 30 degrees to the board should be aimed at.
  • Stand sideways to the board when writing, so that your back is not turned completely to the class. Turn frequently and look at the class to establish eye contact.
  • Chalkboard lettering should be given special attention. Legibility depends largely on the size and style of the letters used. Bold block letters are the most appropriate. Letters should be used uniformly with capital letters at the beginning of a sentence or for an entire heading. Do not spoil appearance by mixing capital and small letters without thought or changing the style in mid-sentence.This will spoil the appearance of chalkboard work and diminish its effectiveness. The letter should be at least five to six cm high and the lines about one cm wide in a ten-meter room.
  • Coloured chalk can be used effectively to point out the contrast.
  • Pay attention to proportion. Outlines of buildings should not be smaller than a person in front of them. A car is bigger than a dog.
  • Neither writing nor drawing should be too detailed on the board.
  • The spacing between words should be consistent. Letters should not run into one another.
  • Lighting should be sufficient for students to see the writing on the board.
  • If it is necessary to show overlapping, use chalk of a different color.
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