As far back as I can remember, teachers had nothing else but a piece of chalk in school, some just had the plain white ones, while others had the multi coloured ones just to help make the lessons more interesting. Today, as a teacher I am overwhelmed by the multitude of teaching aids available, and even a little alarmed by the cutting edge technology available to me. It may be useful in certain ways, but can easily become confusing if a teacher is unfamiliar with it. But yet, even with all of this exceptional technology available, I still feel that a piece of chalk is still the best teaching tool available. It may not be “cutting edge” or “modern technology”, but its simplicity and usefulness is still by far the best instrument available to teachers.
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While a lot of my colleagues prefer new technology, I remain partial to the chalk. The black board is the main piece of equipment and if one uses it well and to its full potential, one will realize that modern equipments can take a step back. Not every language centre or school can provide us with the latest technology, as some may face strict budgets. Furthermore, I don’t think that these modern gadgets are going to make you a better teacher and that student learning efficiency will be greatly increased. The black board and the chalk actually reminds them that they are “back in school”, for most of us grew up in these types of classrooms and environment, which helps to draw the students attention to the lesson at hand. Think for a moment, what you write and how you write on the board will be transferred into the students’ note pads and stamped in their minds. There is not one thing about the chalk that makes ones job unfeasible or is not within our reach, using a chalk and board to deliver a lesson is a step forward that we have to pursue with our mind.
A chalk is a teaching tool just like technology is, it is not just a writing tool. For years we have seen teachers using a white piece of chalk. Over time, dustless chalk was developed and eventually coloured ones appeared. The humble piece of chalk itself has evolved over time. Even though we use the blackboard to write our notes for the students, many teachers tend to rely on PowerPoint presentations. Yes, the basics are the same and yes, you can always save a bit of time as all you need to do is just plug in the computer to the projector. But what happens when there is a black out? Your notes are no longer visible and even with a backup generator, if your computer decides to give you trouble, everything your relied on and what was on it may well disappear. But the black board and your piece of chalk is still there. The backup generator will give you sufficient lighting and you can continue your lesson. I find that when you write and present your lesson, students find themselves more involved and interaction time is great, for you can always call on your students to write examples on the board themselves. And then again, think of how much, as a teacher, you will save on stationery when you use the chalk. When I was asked to use a classroom equipped with only a white board, I was quite happy at first because it appeared to be a step forward from the black board and chalk but soon, I realised that I needed more than just a black marker. I like to use colours when I teach, for example, verbs in red, adjectives in green and so on and I rapidly found myself spending much more on markers that dried up quite quickly. Obviously the white board may have other uses, such as acting as a screen if you are planning to show slides or a movie using the LCD projector but for teaching spelling or word stress, a board and a piece of chalk are still the best. With a piece of chalk, it is the capability of the user to employ all teaching methods and experiences to get through to and inspire the learners. Jeremy Harmer quotes: “The most versatile piece of classroom teaching equipment is the board – it provides a motivating focal point during whole-class grouping.” With a piece of chalk we have greater influence on our students and we can also establish better connectivity with them.
So how do you plan your lesson the old fashioned way? Well it is quite simple, your notes are there to guide you, if you have the opportunity to enter the classroom before your class starts, take advantage to write a few notes on the board, but don’t clutter your blackboard, use different coloured chalks to make your point. You can even draw things like simple objects, you don’t have to be an expert, and the fact you are using a chalk you can erase and try again. When you use new technologies, you cannot improvise your lesson because you are obligated to follow a set pattern of presentation but some students require additional attention or information and that piece of chalk allows you to become flexible in your lesson. You can erase and rewrite. The possibilities offered to teachers using a piece of chalk are endless. A teaching aid, like a piece of chalk, is just a tool to help us deliver our lesson. How effectively we use the chalk as a teaching tool is up to the teacher’s creativity because no matter how “high tech” is only as valuable and as motivating as its user.
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