Low-Tech, Message-Rich, Flip Chart
Slide decks are high tech training tools when used properly help improve information transfer by embedding several types of media as well as text. Too often, they become little more that a high tech chalk board. You remember chalk boards, those black things teachers wrote text on they wanted students to remember. If a teacher took time to write something on the chalk board you know it was likely to show up on the next test. Most slide decks fail to emphasize what is really important. With so much text, there are no powerful points in text based presentations. Like a chalk board, an easel with chart paper is a low tech teaching tool that is portable. Yes you can write words on chart paper which may serve as a tool to share important points. You can also use chart paper to record students thoughts and ideas during a class discussion. You can pull out those ideas later in the class to reinforce important learning points. When well planned, a good trainer draws a picture as s/he speaks, really draws on the pad a picture. Students are amazed at the trainer’s ability to draw while speaking. Using chart paper effectively in training takes planning, preparation, and practice.
As you work your lesson plan, think about different ways you plan to present material. Slide decks have become the go-to media because trainers sit at their computers and spill ideas related to the information in an outline that becomes their slide deck. Full of text, those presentations could almost serve as a text book read by students negating the need for your class. There are lots of ways You can find ways to improve your slide decks. Look for articles else where on my site, but if you want students to remember what you teach, you need to begin to master more than presentation software applications.
Creating the outline of the points you want to make during a training event is still a great place to start. You use the outline to identifying your learning goals. You do not need to present every learning point to students on a slide deck. Now that you have your lesson outline, you can figure out various learning activities to teach those points. A slide deck is on way. Other learning activities include student discussion, cooperative learning exercises, media presentations, and lectures. Instructors who use only slide decks limit their ability to transfer knowledge to students. Flip charts are a versatile method to improve transfer and retention.
Using a facilitated discussion allows students to share what they already know. This knowledge may not be known to everyone in class. This method involves the student. Student involvement increases information retention. If this information is foundational to later points in your lesson and you intend to refer back to it, chart paper is the perfect method of capturing and presenting these points.
Many of us know, “a picture is worth 1000 words,” yet still use thousands of words on hundreds of slides to communicate ideas in training. While it seems chart paper was born for text, with a little planning, preparation, and practice, you too can become a chart paper artist. There are two secrets to drawing on chart paper in front of an audience. The first is to plan how to use each page of chart paper during your presentation. For example, on page one you will record things students expect to learn in your course, page two is a list of responses from the class to a discussion question, and the third is a picture you selected to show achievement. You must know which page in the chart paper is going to contain your pictures in order to apply the second secret. Many instructors place notes on each page of their flip chart to keep them on topic rather than using a regular lesson outline.
The second secret to becoming a well known chart paper artist is sketching your drawing with light pencil lines on the selected page before you present. There are two ways you can accomplish this successfully. The first and easiest is to use a projector and trace the important lines lightly with a pencil. The next is the classical grid method. Print an image and impose a grid system over it. Recreate the grid on your chart paper. Copy the lines from the small print to the large paper lightly with pencil until you have the image you want. In both cases, you can see the lines well enough to recreate the image as you present your message verbally. Your students will not see the lines.
I built on this gem during an instructor development class. During my presentation on using chart paper I asked a student to draw the picture I described. I asked the student in the break before this section to help and share the secret with him. The class was pretty impressed with how well the recorder was able to capture what I was saying without more instruction from me. About half way through the presentation I asked my recorder to select another student to replace him, but not explain how he created what I wanted on the page. This exercise demonstrated the power of using chart paper in a well thought out presentation for all the future instructors.
A third way to use chart paper is recording student responses to discussion questions. This is a great way to save those ideas for activities later in class. Record their responses as closely as possible to what the student actually said, particularly if you plan to use the responses to counter ‘common’ arguments to a course of action. When the time comes to reuse the page in class, you can return to the flipped pages or hang the page(s) somewhere easily viewed.
You need to know some other things to effectively employ chart paper during presentations. Use high contrast colors such as black, red, blue, brown or green. Print large and neatly, do not use script. Letters should be at least one and a half to three inches high. I found printing in small all caps with the first letter larger helps me print neater. Keep your text straight. Use a pad with preprinted lines, or add pencil lines to pages you intend for text. Alternate the color of each line item. Alternate colors help the students understand which ideas belong together. I like to use black for the title of the page and then red or brown with blue or green in the body. Allow students to do your writing for you. This engages them more. Movement helps keep everyone awake and paying attention, very useful after lunch.
Writing takes time. Use this time to encourage students to take notes as your write. You know they have time to write down important points if you are writing them at the same time. When creating illustrations or charts, students demonstrate improved understanding of processes. They also participate more because they think and reflect as you draw resulting in a livelier class.1 Student participation improves student retention.
Slide decks are great to standardize messages and presentations. They are also a great way to put audiences to sleep ensuring the message is completely missed. When used well, presenters embed a variety of media, not just text, to keep the attention of their students. Even though chart paper is low tech, it is a media form that keeps student attention. Using chart paper requires the presenter to move away from the podium. Chart paper allows the presenter to make important points by selectively writing down need-to-know information. A blank page allows the presenter to draw a picture saving 1000 words of writing while capturing student attention. Instructors can display information from more than one page to be simultaneously allowing reference to the page throughout the lesson. Student ideas on important discussion points can be preserved for later use in class. The simple pad of chart paper on an easel seems passe, but used well, it remains an important tool in the box of any great presenter. Think of all they ways you can use it in your next presentation.
1. Dlugan, A. Jan 29, 2013. Six minutes speaking and presentation skills. Flip charts 101: How to use flip charts effectively. Retrieved 9/24/2018 from http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/flip-charts-101/
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