ESL and EFL teachers around the world are using an amazingly large amount of tools in their daily teaching work.
This is our first article in a series that will examine our teaching tools in depth - one at a time.
Whiteboard Markers - Stinking Monsters or Life Savers?
More and more ESL and EFL schools nowadays are using whiteboards and whiteboard markers in their classrooms - instead of the old-fashioned and messy chalkboards.
Whiteboard markers and whiteboards (they became a hit in the mid-eighties) are generally regarded as being more convenient because of the number of great advantages they have.
We Love WhiteBoard Markers Because:
General Look: Corporate Feeling!
White looks nicer than black, brown, or dark green. The white color is percieved as the color of cleanliness and purity, while black is something aggressive. A whiteboard also makes the classroom look a bit more 'professional' and a bit less 'traditional' (by traditional I mean the ones that are being used in traditional schools).
Nobody wants to get the feeling that he's at school again, do we?
Multiple Colors: Let Your Imagination Go Wild!
You can use whiteboard markers of any color that your imagination wants (and that your boss has purchased!) - lots of colors and even shades of color are available nowadays, even the most exotic ones!
Yes, I have to admit it was also possible to use chalks of different color in the past, too, but remember what a mess they were?!
Now each whiteboard marker has a cap colored depending on the ink, which makes it very easy to tell them apart only after a quick glance.
Great Contrast: Increased Visibility!Because of the white background, texts written by the darker color markers on the whiteboard look natural to the eye and are highly contrastive, as opposed to the green, brown, or black backgrounds of the old school boards.
Easily Erased: Fast and Painless!
It's pretty easy to erase whatever your creative brain has put onto the whiteboard (if you're lazy like me, you can even have one of your students do this for you!), no need to use that nasty wet cloth anymore.
The magnetic eraser is (well, at least it's supposed to be!) always at hand - use it when you need it.
Refillable: Be Green!Most of the dry-erase markers available on the market today can be refilled (even though the school I used to work for never cared about this - we just threw the empty onew away and purchased new ones).
Magnetic: Don't Just Write!
Writing on the whiteboard is just one way of presenting information. There are more. Sticking something with small magnets is another. Great to use for presentations or all types of mix'n'match activities, etc.
Having read all of the above, chances are that you're now thinking about how cool these markers are and how they make a teacher's life easier.
Unfortunately, there are a few things that still upset us about whiteboard markers.
We Hate WhiteBoard Markers Because:
Short Life Span - Fade Too Fast
It's amazing how fast they run out of ink when you're least expecting this!
Seems like you got a new one only today, and the next morning your marker is producing thin, almost invisible lines and your students are shouting that they can't see anything! And you can say 'bye-bye' to your marker if you have left the cap off for a day or two: the marker will dry out faster than you notice it. Plus, there's no way to tell how much ink is left in each marker, so if you're preparing an important lesson or a presentation when you have to write a lot, bring a extra one or two in case yours runs out of ink!
For me, black was the one that I was using more than other colors, so I had to ask for a new one every other week or so... Rip-off, if you remember that they are pretty expensive!
Often Toxic and With Nasty Smell: Get Ready for a Headache!
Most whiteboard markers are producing a distinct and unhealthy smell, and there's nothing you can do about it. I have heard complaints from teachers who get constant headaches by the end of the day after writing a lot on a whiteboard and thus inhaling the fumes from their markers.
How many whiteboard markers did you throw away last week?
Unfortunately, because they are made of plastic, it would be harmful to the environment to throw these markers in the bin, since they will not degrade well. Too bad that around a billion of them get tossed away in North America alone! This is an awful amount of waste, if you think about it, and remember that they will sit in that landfill for eternity, they aren't going anywhere, ever. If they contain Xylene, it gets ugly: these small toxic bombs will stay there leaking Xylene into the soil (and often into the water table). Make sure you ask your school administrator to only use markers that do not contain Xylene.
Luckily, there have been a lot of 'odorless' markers around in the last couple of years, so I hope the 'stinky' ones will become history soon.
Not Reverse-Compatible With Permanent Markers: Watch Your Students!
Since whiteboard markers are not cheap, teachers tend to keep them away from teenage learners during the breaktime. Knowing this, kids just looove bringing their own markers from home hoping to draw a picture or two while you're not there. Unfortunately, some of them forget that whiteboards require specific dry-erase markers, and bring the ones they got.
Thousands of whiteboards are ruined every day around the world by pupils writing on them with permanent markers. Even though there are special liquids to 'white out' or dissolve the traces of such 'classroom crimes', your whiteboard will never be the same.
Buying a new whiteboard is often the only way out in such cases. So the next time you are about to buy some supplies for your EFL/ESL school, please consider eco-friendly, non toxic options.
Did you know?
Some modern whiteboard markers come with a tiny magnet built into their cap: you can conveniently clip it to the board. Very useful if you're keep forgetting where you left that last one!
What About You?
What effective ways to use whiteboards and whiteboard markers do YOU know?
What's your favorite whiteboard marker color? Why? Do you know anything about the psychological effect that the color you're using produces on the students?
We have already planned several topics for our future case study articles - please let us know if any of the following interests you more than the others, and we'll prioritize that on our list:
- How to Teach English Using Cuisenaire Rods: 15 Modern and Effective Ways
- Overhead Projector: Too Techno or Best Presentation Tool Ever Invented?
- Stickers for the Little Ones: Motivation Booster or Evil?
- Realia: Bringing Real Life into the Classroom
- Top 10 Software Programs Every Teacher Should Be Using On a Daily Basis
We also invite new authors: write for us! Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org for details and requirements.
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