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Vol. XXXIII No. 22, March 1-15, 2024

The Blackboard: A space for expression and exploration

-- by Priyanka Soman

Priyanka Soman is an educator who has inherited her passion for teaching children from her mother, a teacher herself. She has ten years of experience working with children in Junior, Middle, and Senior School and has been working at The School, KFI, for the past seven years. Priyanka has a strong affinity for Krishnamurti’s teachings, which has fostered a curiosity to observe and explore her environments. Apart from an interest in music, she enjoys bird watching, studying trees, collecting Hot Wheels cars, and reading Ruskin Bond books. As an educator, she believes one must understand that children learn from the different spaces that are designed for them. At school, such spaces allow children freedom of expression and pave the way for true exploration and learning to take place continuously. This article describes different perspectives of one such unique space – the blackboard. 

The Past and The Present

My grandfather said that he used, in the 1920s and 50s, a writing slate to do his school work upon. The teacher would write words or number operations on the slate and to write on it, he would use a thin pencil stick called the balpam, made of calcium carbonate. The balpam was shaped such that it was easy to hold and write on the slate, which he would place on his lap. However, school teachers today use a bigger writing board called the chalkboard or the blackboard.

A Roleplay

When I was a girl, I had a place in the corner of my house where I spent most of my time. It was a cozy nook with a rectangular board hanging on the wall. I’ve always known that to be a teacher was my calling, though no one else seemed to think it a good idea at that time; my mother laughed when I told her I was going to become a teacher before conceding that I did have good penmanship and could be a school teacher after all. After that, I enjoyed talking about what I was going to do. I talked a lot. I talked for about an hour at a stretch about my favourite topic. I talked with my head held high and straight, observant of the things around me. Sometimes I simply stared into space, daydreaming. I would be at the blackboard for two, three hours at a time and appear in the kitchen tired, dusty, and hungry, always with the same question on my lips. When, I asked my mother, would I become a teacher? What a wonderful age that is for one to be. For me, it served as a gateway through which I stepped from childhood into adulthood. I am glad I remember it so well and can bring it back to life in a classroom. It must be the ambiance, I think, of this little space that I cherished so very much.

A Space to Scribble

When I first entered a Middle School classroom, I found many children near the blackboard, each doing different things. Two were writing numbers from right to left and left to right in a sequence. One was drawing geometric patterns on the board squares, creating a plethora of rectangles and triangles. Two boys were playing tic tac toe with plus and minus symbols; both were observing the board in silence, exploring all the possibilities. Sounds of sputtering broke out, intermingled with squeaks. Arjun came up to me and asked, ‘What is this supposed to be?” He was pointing to a design that he had been putting all effort into for the past ten minutes. All I could see was a lot of lines, loops, and squiggles all over the place. It was fun to examine.


Certain practices have become an integral part of the system. During a long assembly, a walk from the main gate could give you all the information you sought – the welcome board or notice board would contain data such as the name, place, and time of an event. It is at these places that the blackboard becomes an active participant, guiding and inviting people to school. It stands in a corner, against a tree or in the middle of a pathway, directing people to different places with arrows pointing East, West, North, or South.


It has become routine for Adhya to take a piece of chalk from the teacher’s table and write the class timetable for the day on the blackboard. She cannot reach the top of the board and uses a chowki for the purpose. From the top to the bottom, she adds one row after the other and finishes the entire structure for the day. In the end, she adds the people who are not present in class on that day. She also enjoys highlighting the games period with a different colour and in bold, giving a special callout to her classmates. One morning, I walked into class after breakfast and found, to my surprise, that the details on the board were missing. I asked her why the timetable was not up on the board that day. She said, “Well, I am bored today, Akka. Can someone from our class take on board duty today?” I turned to the class to ask for volunteers. The next minute, ten hands shot up in the air. All of them wanted to display their skills in organizing the space.

Create Curiosity

A board in a Senior School classroom is quite different. Students are formally seated in a chair and a table, with twenty-eight to thirty students facing in one direction towards the blackboard. In my chemistry classes – the subject I take for this section – I use the blackboard to write chemical equations. These equations are sometimes balanced, sometimes not. When a student looks at the question, they try to solve it in a Eureka moment. Each one tries to make sure that the equations are copied in the right order. Each one rolls their eyes in interest and curiosity while thinking about the solutions to these questions.

The Blackboard I Know

I have observed that this space always helps the child to interact and express emotions. It can be reused several times for different purposes and influences the minds of young children. It’s expanding acceptance has always been fascinating to me. The modern world allows room for many visual aids to present students with information. But I find that the blackboard – an integrated design in schools – contributes continuously to the process of learning and fosters a growing curiosity, expression, and spirit of exploration. 

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