Why I use chalkboards in my classroom

Earlier this year I began a DonorsChoose campaign to buy a bunch of lap chalkboards for my classroom. Yes, chalkboards. Chalkboards, mini erasers, and chalk, reminiscent of days gone by happily replaced by white boards and of course the grand almighty Smart Board (and I still don’t know what those really are.) Every person I have talked to shows surprise that chalkboards still exist, let alone are sitting for the purchasing in the Lakeshore catalog, but they were there and on my DonorsChoose campaign they went. A few donations later and they were in my classroom, ready and waiting for student use.

And I love them.

Chalkboards are a thing. That is, the illusion of chalkboards. They’re trendy, they’re pretty, and Pinterest is full of them. Why not the classroom? What is this fear of chalk and chalk dust that has sent us all to Expo marker hell?

A few years ago, my teacher grandmother was going through her things. She had a bunch of mini chalkboards left over from her own teaching days. I was not teaching at that time and my sister took them. Ever since then, they’ve been on the back of my mind. Not overly so; after all, whiteboards are the way to go and you can even buy shower board at the home improvement store.

But some point last year I realized whiteboards aren’t all that awesome. They can get scratched to the point of uselessness and let us not forget their companion, the dry erase marker. Now that is a demon. That innocent little marker gets its tip broken constantly by overeager children and dries up in a flash. How much money did I spend over the years on markers?

My classroom isn’t whiteboard free. I have a big whiteboard on the wall upon which I write. And I even have an almost-class set of little whiteboards. But chalkboards kind of rock and here is why:

  1. Chalk is cheaper than markers. Seriously, chalk is dirt cheap even though it’s better than its icky predecessors. I can buy a whole bunch of chalk for a few dollars and not panic about the financial loss because chalk never dries out! Even broken chalk can be used for its time.
  2. Writing on a chalkboard is ever so much more difficult than writing with marker on a whiteboard. Yes, difficulty isn’t always a good thing, but I’m working with second graders and some of them have crappy motor skills. I noticed this the past two years of working in my current school. Not with chalk, of course, but with crayons. I began to question whether these kids had ever colored before. Then, as a remedy for their terrible fine motor skills, they brought in markers because those were “easier” to color with. Which defeated the purpose. Crayons take more effort than smooth-gliding markers, requiring more muscle coordination, focus, and energy. And up go fine motor skills. Writing with chalk on a chalkboard vs writing with marker on a whiteboard seems to work the same way. I still have kids drawing with the chalk, but it’s not the random scribbles of markers. They have to work a little more, and they honestly seem to think more.
  3. The kids have more fun. Face it, kids love chalk. Sidewalk chalk is still an awesome gift. Even though I have my rules about focusing on the lesson, my kiddos have embraced the chalk and chalkboards. It’s different for them and the chalk comes in more colors than the basic Expo black.
  4. It was good enough for our forefathers. Referring back to Grandma’s chalkboards, I love the classic nature of these things. This is old school elementary.
  5. Less waste. I don’t have a ton of plastic lying about. No dried-up markers, no boxes, just chalk getting used up.

 

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