Part of the TESOL teacher’s arsenal of teaching resources is the humble yet effective whiteboard. This is a vital tool for the classroom; it is the central focal point for students, so proper implementation of the whiteboard is essential for the TESOL classroom. The following are a few simple and practical tips to make the most of your whiteboard:

1. Greet the students with a presentable board

When you have to share the classroom with another teacher, it’s courteous to make sure the board is clean before students come in; sometimes, TESOL teachers are in a hurry and forget to erase the board, leaving the material for the next group of students to see. To maintain professionalism, it’s a good idea to come in before the students, and go over the whiteboard with an eraser before the lesson starts. And don’t forget to clean the board for the next TESOL teacher who uses the room after you.

2. Plan ahead how you’re going to use the whiteboard

This is just part of the lesson planning procedure. How are you going to present that grammar structure to the students? What example sentences are you going to put on the board for context? Planning these things may take a little more time, but it saves time in the classroom, and the information will go up on the board quickly and problem free.

3. Consistency!

If you divide your board and designate certain areas for vocabulary, grammar structures, and examples, try to be consistent, as this will help students absorb the organization into their routine, and you don’t have to explain where everything is each lesson.

4. Print legibly

Scribbling words on the board in a hurry looks sloppy and unprofessional, not to mention it’s difficult to read. Keep your script about 2” to 2 ½” high, or big enough so the students at the back of the room don’t have to read your writing with binoculars. Print – don’t use cursive writing.

5. Don’t spend too much time with your back to your students

When your back is facing your students, all sorts of mischief can occur. Learn to get the information up on the board quickly but neatly.

6. Keep stocked up on markers, refills and magnets

Nothing is more embarrassing than running out of ink in the middle of the lesson; keep some extra markers or refills in the classroom, just in case. If you use the magnetic feature of the whiteboard, make sure you have enough magnets.

7. Signpost your lesson

Put the main aims of the lesson on the side of the board, as well as the topic, language item focus, language skills and activities you will be using in the lesson. This will help you stay on track, and will give the students a guide in following the stages of the lesson.

8. Turn the board into an interactive tool

There’s every reason to encourage students to use the board. Aside from allowing your students to get out of their chairs and stretch their legs, you can have them work with the board to make learning a more interactive experience, which will make the lesson more interesting for them, and will help them retain the information better.

9. Use coloured markers to make the information come to life

Gone are the days of the chalk board, and its rainbow selection of coloured chalk; but whiteboard markers also come in different colours, and these can be used to highlight certain bits of information, from identifying the verb tense, to emphasizing the pronunciation of a new word. Try to be consistent with which colours you use for which purpose; I use black as the standard, blue for answers to questions and examples, and red for pronunciation.

10. Illustrate!

You don’t have to be Michelangelo to draw a stick figure on the board. You can get the point across with the simplest illustration. Drawing on the board is a visual technique that can help contextualize sentences, vocabulary and help students to ‘see’ what you mean.

The standard whiteboard is a simple, yet powerful teaching tool when teaching an English course. Remember that the success of any teaching resource in the classroom depends on the teacher’s ability to utilize it to its full advantage. Happy teaching!

Michael Bunyak

English Teacher at Canadian Education College, Singapore