What's the best chalk for this situation?
January 23, 2020 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm teaching in a classroom that has two big green chalkboards and no other writing surface. The chalkboards are smoother than the black slate chalkboards and the regular white chalk in the classroom hardly makes a mark. I need to write on this chalkboard visibly. Do any classroom instructors here have suggestions for chalk brands or other solutions?

Seriously, wtf does no one test these before they install them? It's bad enough I'll either have to request a room change or a portable whiteboard or something.
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Education (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
According to mathematicians on the internet, this is the Best Chalk.

I bought a box for a teacher once and he was very happy.
posted by mekily at 1:15 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

It's quite a nice chalk.

I'd really like to hear from instructors who have dealt with this kind of chalkboard before, though, because I don't know whether a better quality chalk is the answer. I can't afford a box of super fancy chalk unless I'm sure.

I also can't really afford the time it takes to order and test out different types of chalk. I just found out today that I have a student with a vision issue who can't see what's on the board at all. Even one more class period with this stupid chalkboard and chalk that doesn't work would be unacceptable.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:28 PM on January 23

The chalkboards are probably not seasoned. I've dealt with them and theyr'e infuriating.

I am a big fan of liquid chalk markers for this reason. Also, it's higher contrast so your lower vision students and others might find it more comfortable.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on January 23 [9 favorites]

Liquid chalk markers are the answer here. I love them, it is a little bit of a pain if you need to write and erase frequently, but if it is more "put the stuff up for the day then wipe at the end of the day" it is fine. They are very vibrant and visible and write well. Oddly enough, they don't seem to be made for use on a vertical surface so you have to point them down and prime them every now and then. I keep some paper towels handy for that.
posted by stormygrey at 2:34 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I know exactly the kind of chalkboard you're talking about, and they're awful. We've basically switched to whiteboards around here, which at least have a lot of contrast.

Back when I was using chalkboards regularly, the best chalk (even for the crappy horrible green boards) was the omega chalk, which apparently has been re-branded. Here's a link to the colored ones, which I can vouch for in their previous branding. I don't remember if I actually used their white chalk, but I'd definitely be willing to try it out -- softer chalk shows up better than hard chalk.

I've actually mostly switched to lecturing using an iPad + Apple Pencil + Notability in class, which has the advantages that you can (1) up the contrast by at least having thicker lines, and (2) post an exact copy of the lecture notes after class. But that implies you have access to that technology.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:00 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, I will often need to write and erase throughout the class, or else liquid chalk markers would be perfect. Can the marks be removed with a damp rag, or do you need to really wash it?

I don't think the problem is that the board isn't seasoned. The board isn't porous enough, rather than being too porous. Marks just don't show up. It really is infuriating.

I've ordered a box of the omega chalk since it's not too expensive. I might also order the markers too.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:13 PM on January 23

If you are open to sharing your location, I bet someone could set you up with a Hagoromo sample to try out. (If you are near Berkeley, CA, that someone can be me.)

I also like the Omega/Quartet and Nihon Rikagaku chalks, both of which I used before getting hooked on Hagoromo. They are softer chalks that erase well and should work for you. They don't quite live up to the Hagoromo gold standard, but they are noticeably cheaper and still worlds better than Crayola and such.
posted by ktkt at 9:36 PM on January 23

The problem IS not seasoning the board. Do it. It takes 5 minutes. Side of the chalk, up and down, cover the entire board. Then go over that, side to side, the entire board. Wipe it all down with a dry rag. It will seem cloudier than before...this is normal.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:30 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]

Oh...and be sure to clean it first...it sounds like they're brand new and might have a film on them from manufacturing/transport. My elementary school teacher who taught me to season a board swore by Murphys Oil Soap.
And it's not completely about porous/non-porous...part of it is having enough dust on the board to abrade the chalk you're writing with.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:45 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]

Could a Brillo pad or other micro-fine scrubbing pad break the board in a bit and give it more tooth to grip the chalk?
posted by nickggully at 6:58 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]

You could put some of that whiteboard sticky paper on it and use whiteboard markers.
posted by bendy at 6:44 PM on January 24

it sounds like they're brand new and might have a film on them

This is kind of what it feels like. It is oddly smooth and plastic-y. I could rub a side of chalk on this board and it would leave almost no marks. I mean, I'll try it, but I seriously doubt that it will make much of a difference.

I'm a college instructor and I'm in this room twice per week, for an hour and a half. It's not "my" room in that sense. I don't want to do anything that will change the board - for all I know this is some stupid protective coating that is supposed to be there. I definitely can't take a brillo pad to it. I have about five minutes before the class to get set up, and I have to leave it in the same condition I found it in.

I'm really interested to know if the chalk markers wipe off with a damp rag or if you need to use larger amounts of water.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:38 PM on January 24

Maybe try seasoning a small area and see if it helps?
posted by bink at 3:01 PM on January 26

Seasoning with chalk didn't work.

But the chalk that leahwrenn suggested did work! It's so soft it leaves nice dark, thick lines even on this terrible chalkboard. And I can afford it.

I marked it as best answer.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:39 PM on January 29

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