Along with the teaching experience in a prominent middle school in the US, I have also gathered some wonderful teaching strategies through visiting a few schools and two universities. Especially, their student-oriented classroom and its management techniques are really exceptional and efficacious. Among all the techniques, I have picked one for discussing today. This is about the use of an "interactive whiteboard" in a classroom.
With visual presentations, teaching can be effective and learning can be a fun at the same time. Many fascinating activities can be demonstrated with just a simple marker and a whiteboard-- many new ideas can be established and attached to a whiteboard. Using this, teaching and learning become easier and more convenient. When I visited George Washington University in 2014, I was mesmerized to see the wonderful board work, especially the key points written with colourful clip charts. On that tour, I also visited a high school in Washington D.C. where I saw the colourful classrooms beautifully designed including their whiteboards.
Last year, I studied educational technology at Montana State University under the Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) programme where I saw the interactive whiteboards in the same way. While visiting Bozeman High School and Sacajawea Middle School at Bozeman; also, Skyview High School and St. Charles Mission School at Billing, I was very happy to see their wonderful board work. Finally, when I was appointed at Chief Joseph Middle School in Bozeman as a guest teacher, I enjoyed the board work with the first-hand experience. This valuable experience gave me a very good idea of other schools in the US.
Their boards are not only decorative but also effective for teaching a lesson. Most teachers enter the classroom with a lesson plan prepared earlier where they establish an aim for the lesson. I saw some teachers write the lesson goal on the board so that the students never get rid of the topic. It helps them to complete their lessons according to a plan as it shows where the lesson is leading to. Also, it helps students to understand what they are going to learn and when the topic along with its discussion is going to be stopped.
Most teachers make an organized plan before a class. Even the experienced and senior teachers give a large amount of time to make a plan. I saw some teachers draw the map of the board work in their lesson plans so that they don't forget the exact plan for that lesson. They design a layout, a vocabulary column, and even they care about spaces. It helps them implement the plan perfectly. Some serious teachers do a trial even. After organising a board work with a model of set up words, they take a picture of it and show it to others to get feedback on it and to know how it works and how it could be improved and changed.
When someone is organized and passionate about teaching in such a way, he or she must keep their board clean as well. Yes, they care for the board keeping it clean so that students can read the board clearly and copy the works confidently. It is important to have a furnished whiteboard, good markers, and a standard duster. They are to be serious about these because many students copy inappropriately when they do not understand what is written on the board.
Neat and legible handwriting is very essential for teachers while they are writing on the board. Some styles of handwriting attract students and help teachers to draw their students' attention. Also, this way, students feel more comfortable to read. Good handwriting engages students in the lesson and helps them to learn cognitive skills subconsciously. Handwriting also helps to improve reading fluency as it activates visual perception of letters.
When I first entered the classroom that I was nominated for, I was fascinated with its colourful board. Mr. Avi Kartz, that beautiful classroom belongs to, was my mentor for few days. At the beginning, I was observing his class and the way he used his board. While I was roaming around other classrooms, I saw that they had a beautiful combination of different colours on their boards. I enjoyed the board work while I was teaching and could not stop learning different uses of the board. For example, in a verb learning session, they will use all the words of a sentence in black except the verb. That might be used in any other colour, like red, blue or green. If they are teaching pronouns, they write pronouns in different colours so that the attention could be drawn.
With colours, they often do another practice that drew my attention too. Some of them select some new words every day and write them on the board. I saw some teachers write words in black, but their "parts of speech" are written in different colours, like nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc. The advantage of this practice is to have these words in front of the eyes for the whole day and to use them when they are needed.
On the board, teachers also draw some pictures that represent a whole message. For example, to teach about tears, fear, and laugh, some teachers even draw some simple cartoons to represent them. To teach about the weather, if the teachers have good drawing skills, they can make students understand very easily.
Also, I saw them use post-it stickers differently on board. When different colourful stickers are set up on a board, it really looks attractive. To highlight something, they hang different posters like verbs, nouns, quizzes, etc. There is another wonderful advantage of using it. It is very easy to erase the mistakes and to rewrite it which saves teachers' time and provides them with more time for teaching. Another psychological benefit for "struggling-students" lies here. They can easily rub their mistakes which can save them from many uncomfortable situations.
In the U.S., I saw that teachers do not move from classroom to classroom, rather students run for the next period after finishing one. I asked the vice-principal of the school where I worked to know the reason and we discussed together to find out the answer. There are always pros and cons in every system, and he believes that teachers need a homeroom where they can be comfortable to set up their things including the board they need. They can put their students' works, projects, posters, necessary books, etc.
When they are teaching grammar, their classroom should not be the way when they take classes like drama, music, foreign languages, etc. Having a home classroom helps teachers to design their board more comfortably, and it can give them a comfortable environment to learn better. There are also many techniques when teachers don't have any homeroom; in that case they need to be creative and passionate. If teachers can think the way I discussed, it's possible to use a whiteboard interactively for any lesson. This is how they are improving, and giving us a chance to learn from it.
The writer was a Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Fellow, Montana State University, USA.
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