Tip #198: A Tribute to Flip Charts

I love using flip charts! I think that they are the key audiovisual for any interactive training. The minute you have flip charts in the room, people KNOW that they are going to have to get involved!!

Flip charts are amazingly flexible. The facilitator can lead a large group brainstorming session and post their responses on the flipchart. The group can be divided into two groups to brainstorm, post their responses, and then report out what they have written.

You can post several flip charts around the room for a gallery walk, having small groups brainstorm answers or ideas and post them before they have to move to the next flip chart.

When small groups work on case studies, problem solving exercises or other activities, they can post their answers or conclusions on the flip chart. When they report out to the larger group, there is a visual to support what they are saying.

Training rooms may not have LCD projectors or screens, but they usually have flip charts. And now that there are flip charts that are self-sticking, as long as the room has walls to stick the flip charts on, you’re set!

Flip charts have staying power. Put a title on top of the page, write in large print, and you have a great audiovisual for reference throughout the training session. Throw in fragrant colorful marking pens and you have a party when groups gather around the flip chart to brainstorm!

They are terrific for ice breakers and community building. Mixing up participants into different groups throughout the day to work on different issues that they flip chart spreads the expertise and builds new insight and relationships. That’s where the real learning happens!

Want your participants to feel that they are actively involved in creating the training content? Ask them what they want to learn, and post that on a flip chart. Is the training a mandatory refresher session? Ask the participants what types of issues or challenges they are facing, and post those on a flip chart. Then either address those items immediately or refer to the flip chart throughout the session as the training content addresses the items.

Flip charts can also be wonderfully decorative. There are books about how to decorate flip charts, but I learned the most from Sharon Bowman and Danny Papakalos. Sharon
showed me that adding colorful borders and decorations really jazz up a flip chart. And Danny showed me how to create a border very quickly by using two different colored markers in the same hand! So, no more plain white flip charts when it is so easy to add color and character to them!

Photos of the flip charts create a living montage of the group work. I’ve mentioned in earlier Tips that I take digital photos of the flip chart work, post them on Kodak Gallery and send a link to the participants. I like to believe that the photos of the flip charts give the information greater immediacy and intimacy than a typewritten page. The email with the link also reinforces the learning that occurred in the classroom.

Flip charts give participants freedom to be creative, not only in what they write but also in how they structure what they create. I’ve seen folks transform a flip chart into games and game boards. Flip charts are great and lasting surfaces for mind maps, collages, pictures of organizational visions, job aids- the list is endless!

And isn’t that the point? Flip charts are fantastic teaching and learning tools!

PowerPoint is extremely overrated and overused. With all the bells and whistles, animation, colors and fonts, the media becomes the message- and no real learning takes place. Learning is noisy and active and messy and busy, especially the learning that lasts. And flip charts are perfect for that. Besides, flip charts don’t need electrical outlets, cables, batteries, or bulbs. Talk about plug and play- you don’t even need a plug!

So, grab a few self-sticking flip charts and fragrant markers- and launch your learners on a voyage of self discovery! You and they will never look back!

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