How to Use a Blackboard

Thomas Henry Huxley at the blackboard
Some old-school teachers shared their wisdom with me, that this dying art might be preserved.

– Divide the board into sections.
– Hold the chalk horizontally, so as to avoid squeaking.
– Use the same colours for headings and subheadings each time.
– Underline with a squiggly line rather than a straight line (because nobody can draw a straight line).
– Reserve a section for first appearance of terms and new vocabulary.
– The blackboard duster makes a useful missile.
– Chalk, though, is light and tends to veer about when thrown; it might bounce off a desk and fly up a student’s nostril. Theoretically.
– Erase section by section, so slow scribblers can catch up on copying what you wrote ten minutes ago.
– Learn the Jedi trick of writing whilst keeping your eyes fixed on the class.
– Have blackboard monitors or helpers, because kids love erasing and clapping out dusters.
– Completely colour in a brand-new blackboard with the side of a piece of chalk, then erase normally to “prime” it for use.

Fun fact: chalk is not actually made from chalk rock (calcium carbonate), but from calcium sulfate in its dihydrate form, gypsum. So now you know.

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Thanks to Maureen Bell (University of Wollongong) and Alan Hoskin & Gregor Ronald (UCTL, University of Canterbury).

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