Bored of your Board?

Here are some ideas & tips for making the most of your board, be it black, white, green or smart – although to be honest I’ve never used the whiteboard more than since we got smartboards in our classrooms. While you’ll be familiar with most of them I hope there’s something new for everyone.

 A creature of habit

I always start the lesson in the same way, by asking students the date, the weather (for younger children) and what we did last lesson, a great way to recycle language and get everyone back into an “English class” frame of mind.

For older classes I write a historical event that took place on this day (which I get from the This Day app), these leads to a quick discussion on the event, or the students guess the job of the person if it’s something like “Joseph Lister was born on this day in 1827”.

I then add the objectives and activities at the top and note absent students to one side, that way when I take a photo of my board at the end of class I have all the information I need.

Writing on the board

There are loads of ways to use the board, pictures of course, but writing styles too.

However save a thought for colour-blind students and those with learning difficulties. I avoid writing big chunks for students to copy, but if you do want them to copy then keep it simple and straight.

Split the board in two and start on the right side (if you are right-handed), that way students can read what you’ve written as you continue to fill up the left side – but make it very clear which side comes first, as it won’t be the logical left to right format they are used to seeing.

Remember to get the students writing on the board too. After a dictagloss or running diction for example, get groups to come up and write out parts, this saves the teacher’s attention for where it’s needed (see below) and also encourages peer correction.

Classroom management

If you do have to write for a prolonged period then set the students an activity to be getting on with, nothing sparks trouble like a class of students with nothing to do while the teacher’s back is turned!

Another idea to help classroom management is to write a riddle or quiz on the board before the students enter, they can be getting on with that while you do your start-of-lesson admin.

You can write a phrase promising a treat at the top of the board, for example ” We will sing a song at the end of the lesson”, wipe of a word for every piece of misconduct and only give the treat if they have a certain number of words left.

Writing the name of badly-behaved students on the board can also help, adding crosses that will result in a specific sanction helps too. A colleague of mine developed his own version of this, he would write the name of students who behaved badly in a list on the board, at the end of the lesson only the last student received the sanction, a good way to avoid blanket punishments!


The board is a great way for students to visualise language,

be it pronunciation or timelines.

Some activities work particularly well, when studying prepositions, I draw a picture on the board that only half the class can see,

they must then describe the picture to their partner who is sitting with their back to the board…

and finally we compare pictures – and laugh at how rubbish I am at drawing!

Other activities, such as giving directions work well with the board too.


There are loads of vocabulary activities for the board, apart from hangman, Kim’s game works well ( this is where you draw a picture, students look for a couple of minutes, close their eyes while you wipe off or change something then call out what is missing), as does labelling – draw a body, or a fridge or wardrobe for example and get students to come up and label it or fill it in.

There’s something great about getting students up to the board, while it can end up a bit of a bun fight ( I quite like my lessons like that!) it’s great for giving students the feeling that they are playing an active part in their learning. It’s also a good way to change pace and give everyone a chance to move about – especially useful if you have an particularly active students who find sitting still for a whole hour a challenge.

You can also write words in stepping stones and students must make phrases to get from one side of the river to the other, or write new vocabulary in a ticktacktoe grid, the student who uses the word correctly gets to add their 0 or X in the place of the word.

Word creator – start by writing a letter, the class must then choose a following letter then it’s the teacher’s turn again, the first to make a word – teacher or class, gets the point, they really enjoying playing against the teacher – and win too often for my liking!

What about you? What are your favourite board tricks? Please share!


About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
This entry was posted in classroom management tips, Fab ideas, Fab YL ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bored of your Board?

  1. Hana Tichá says:

    A fantastic post, Rachael! Things I’ve just learnt from you – those I’d definitely like to try out myself:
    1) *This Day app* – sounds really cool and great for learning new language items, as well as for staying well-informed. I’ll check it out in my App Store.
    2) *Split the board in two and start on the right side (if you are right-handed), that way students can read what you’ve written as you continue to fill up the left side*. This is absolutely amazing! How come it never occurred to me before?
    3) *Write a riddle or quiz* (maybe a question to discuss in pairs) *on the board before the students enter; they can be getting on with that while you do your start-of-lesson admin*. Such a great idea!
    4) *Write a phrase promising a treat at the top of the board* … brilliant idea, especially for difficult classes. Maybe the treat could be finishing a couple of minutes earlier, if it’s the last lesson before lunch. The sooner the students reach the school canteen, the better.
    5) *Kim’s game* – so simple, yet I don’t think I’ve ever done this.
    A word I’ve learnt: *blanket punishment* 🙂 By the way, the method of only punishing the last student in the list sounds interesting and fair. Students get an opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes.

    • Thanks Hana, I’ve used 4) for ages, also adding negative phrases or simply extra exercises! Sophie Hardy also mentioned it in her TESOL France workshop last year.

  2. I love the idea of the quick review from the last lesson – I find when I do it, it’s quite teacher-led, but by using the board and encouraging the learners to come up and write something they can remember, I can pass the activity over to them! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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