Classroom language when using the board

Summary: Useful classroom language for teachers while using the board

Useful classroom language for teachers while using the board

When you are using the board is a critical time to make sure you use lots of interesting and relevant language, as the students are often passive while the teacher is writing on the board and the teacher has their back to the class and so can't make eye contact with the students to get their attention and check that they are understanding. The fact you are doing something and speaking about it also means that students can understand what you are saying from the context and so should learn the language you are using by watching and listening.


Useful vocabulary connected to the whiteboard or blackboard

(A box of/ a piece of) chalk

Board marker/ board pen

Permanent marker (= the kind you mustn't use on the board!)

Blu tack/ sellotape


Chalk dust

Board eraser/ board rubber

To erase/ to rub off/ to wipe off/ clean the board

Leave something on/ up

To run out

To wash off

Pen cap


OHP (= overhead projector)


A/ one/ this/ that section/ part/ bit/ side

Top left corner/ bottom right corner (of the board)

The centre/ middle (of the board)

The top half/ bottom half (of the board)

The right hand side/ left hand side (of the board)

The right hand column/ left hand column/ middle column/ second column (from the left)


Before you start writing

"Okay, I'll write the answers for exercise B on the board (as we check them)"

"Shout out any adjectives you can think of, and I'll write them on the board"

"I'm only going to write the words I think are difficult, so please ask me if you have any other questions"


Explaining what you are writing

"The red pen is the meaning of the tense, the part written in black is the name of the tense, and the blue part is the typical mistake/ [If you always use the same colour code] What does the red part (always) mean? And the black part? Good!"

"The right hand column is the object, the middle column is the verb, and the column on the left is the subject"

"This symbol means 'not equal' and this symbol means 'opposite'"

"'Adj' stands for adjective"

"This upside down 'e' letter is called 'schwa'. It's the last sound in 'computer'"

"The part of the sentence in brackets is optional"

"The part in capital letters/ italics is the part of the sentence that needs to be corrected"

"The underlined part is the part that usually stays the same"


Eliciting things onto the board

"What's the next word?"

"Can anyone give me an example sentence?"

"What's this sound? Where is it on the phonemic chart poster?"


While you are at the board

"While I'm cleaning the board/ writing this up, can someone/ everyone take out your books/ move the tables back/ pass out these worksheets?"



"Can everyone read that? What about the people at the back?"

"Is my writing big enough?"

"Don't be shy. I know my handwriting is awful, so tell me if you can't read anything"

"Is that colour okay?"

"Please tell me if the reflection on the board is a problem"

"Do you know what this word means?"

"Can I wipe that off now?"

"Has everyone finished copying it down?"

"Have you finished with this part? Can I erase just this section?"


Adding extra information

"Let me give you an extra example."

"I'll write the phonemic symbols on to help you"

"Let me mark every syllable as well as the main stress. That should help"


Asking students to copy things down

"Can you copy (just) the table into your notebooks?"

"You don't have to copy everything down, just whatever you really think is important"

"The parts I have underlined/ circled will probably be in the exam, so I suggest you write those bits down"

"No translations! Copy the English explanations and examples from the board!"

"There's no need to copy this down, it's all in your books. (We'll have a look at it later)"

"I'll give you time to copy it all down later"


Referring to the board later

"We don't say 'He do', do we? Have a look at the examples on the board."

"You will probably have noticed that the answers to the first two questions are already on the board"

"The example sentences from earlier all refer to the pictures in your book. Match the pictures there with the sentences on the board"

"You can use the information on the board to fill in the table in your books/ to correct the sentences on the worksheet"


Dealing with people who can't see

"Can you see the board better when I turn this light off?"

"Do you think closing the blinds/ curtains might help?"

"Maybe if you sat nearer the front..."

"Is it better if I use a black pen instead of a red one?"

"Okay, I'll try to write bigger."


Drawing their attention to things you have written up when they weren't looking

"The answers to that exercise are written up on the board mixed up to help you."

"I've written the rules of the game up on the board"

"This bit up here is the instructions for the listening task. Please do this, and not the task in your books"

"Here are some useful phrases you can use while you are playing the game"


Dealing with other problems

"Whoops, (I) dropped my pen!"

"Oh dear, (I) didn't mean to erase that part!"

"Sorry, I've mixed up the two meanings of 'will'. This one is a prediction and this one is a spontaneous intention. Can you change that in your books?"

"I'll just check the spelling of that word in my dictionary."

"You're right! I always have problems spelling that word"

"Can someone go to the staffroom and get me some more pens/ chalk?"

"I've lost the board rubber/ pen cap. Did anyone see where I put it?"

"There doesn't seem to be a board eraser. Does anyone have any tissue I can borrow?"

"Some idiot has used permanent marker on the board. Sorry about his, but we'll just have to use the right hand side for today"


If students are using the board

"Don't worry; this kind of pen will wash right off"

"You've got pen on your fingers. Do you want to go to the bathroom and wash it off?"

"You've got chalk dust on the back of your skirt. There's just a little bit left. Can someone help her brush it off?"

"Sorry, can you write a little bit bigger? Some people at the back can't see."

"Can anyone help Janet spell that word?"

"Can you pass the pen to the next person?"

"A little bit higher/ lower/further to the right"


Classroom language to explain games that use the board

Game 1- Board Race

  • "From here" [cutting between two people with two arms out straight in front of you and your palms together] "to here" [sweeping your right arm over the heads of the people to your right] "is team A. From here" [chopping in the same place] "to here" [sweeping your left arm over the heads of the people to your left] "is team B."

  • [Draw a line down the centre of the board]. "I want team A to stand in a line in front of this half of the board" [standing facing team A in front of the half of the board on their left in the spot where you want the first person to stand, move both arms out in front of you to indicate the direction of the line they will stand in]. Okay? Understand? Right, stand up. Go! A bit more straight at the back. Good. Can the person at the front go a bit further forward? Great"

  • "Now here" [standing in front of the half of the board on their left, facing team B] "I want...? That's right, team B, to stand in... Yes, a straight line. Got it? Okay, let's go."

  • "So, this side of the board is... Good, team A" [write 'Team A' at the top of their half of the board] "And so this half must be...? You got it!" [write 'Team B' on the other half]

  • "The blue pen is for team A" [give the board pen to the person at the front of the line] "and the green pen is for team B"

  • "The first person writes one word at the top of the board" [pretend you are writing something there with their pen] "then passes the pen back" [mime actually passing the pen back over your shoulder to the next person in the line] "and then runs to the back of the line" [mime doing that] "Then the next person...? Good. The next person writes a word. And then? And then they pass. The word is 'pass'. Good. Pass the pen to the next person, and then? That's right. Run to the... What's the opposite of front? Behind? Good, that's also the opposite of front, but I need another word. What's this part of your body? That's right, back. So, the person runs to the... good, back of the line. And so on. Are you with me so far?"

  • "So, can one person write many words?" [mime covering the whole board with writing] "That's right. No, they can't." [gesture for no, e.g. wagging finger or making cross sign with your arms] "How many words can they write? Good, one. The other people in the team can help you, for example by shouting out" [gesture for shouting, hands around wide open mouth]

  • "Right. So the words I want you to write today are irregular simple past verbs. Can anyone give me an example? For example, give, mmmmmm, given. Gave! Good. Any more examples like that. Needed? Almost. That is the past, but because it's just plus ed we call it "regular simple past". Do you remember, we studied that last week? Yes, is it coming back to you now? Okay, so, give gave, see...? Saw, good. Any more? No, not wanted, that's regular. Went, perfect. Right, so I think you are ready. Have you got your pens? Ready, steady. Ah, wait for it! Go!"


Game 2- Blindfold joining on the board

On the whiteboard or blackboard the teacher has written some things that need to be joined up by lines, e.g. adjectives on the left and their opposites on the right or sentence beginning on the left and sentence endings on the right.

  • "Can anyone tell me which one this word joins up with?" [hold the pen or chalk on the right of one of the words on the left] "Freezing? Here?" [start drawing a line that is going towards completely the wrong word] "No? Which direction? Up?" [move up, but too much in that direction] "No? Okay, what is this direction? Up, good. And what's the opposite of up, this way? Not quite, under in the opposite of on. What's the opposite of upstairs?" [mime your fingers walking up and down some stairs "Yup, downstairs. So, the opposite of up is...? Got it, down! So what's this way? This way? This way? This way?" [make a gesture for stop, e.g. open palm towards the students] "Stop! Good, so we've got up, down and stop so far. What about this way? Right, that's right! Right, that's right, ha ha! And the opposite is...? Good, left, but remember the difference between l and r that we studied before. What's the first letter of 'left'? L, good. So, flap your tongue. And the other word is, right, right! So, keep your tongue still. What's this?" [pointing at the light] "Light. L l l l l l light. And this direction? Rrrrrrrright. Like a dog growling. Great. So the four directions we learnt are up, down, left and ...? Right, that's right! Okay, I know, not funny. Sorry!"

  • "Okay, any volunteers to join some of these words on the board together? No, okay. I'll close my eyes and spin round and the person who my finger is pointing at has to start. And that person is... Tomoko! Okay, Tomoko, stand up and come up here. Don't worry, everyone is going to help you. Okay, here's the pen. Do you want to start on this one here? Good. Make the pen touch the board next to that word and then just stop. Okay everyone, tell Tomoko which way to go to join that word to the correct one on the right. Left? No! Okay, shout out which way she should go. Right, right, I can't hear you! Good, good, got it! Let's give Tomoko a round of applause, clap clap clap clap."

  • "Good, let's have a boy next. Alfonso? So, Alonso, I want you to do the same thing, but this time wearing... this!" [reveal one of those blindfolds that someone wears in a plane when they want to sleep, or anything else they can cover their eyes with such as a scarf] "Aha! Right, have you got it on properly? No looking! Good, take the pen."

  • "Okay, everyone, what one do you want him to start with? This one. No? This one? Everyone agree? So, tell him how to get there. Up, up..."

  • Etc.


Copyright © 2009

Written by Alex Case for

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