Simplicity: Flipchart rather than pinboard

How to build trust

In compact business seminars, the kind where the participants expect and get a full script to take home (so much for unplugged!), I usually use cards and a pinboard to collect, sort and focus the participants’ ideas. But you can drive a good thing into the ground. The act of pinning the card is a very formal performance, making a statement, punctuated by that punching sound of the pin going in through the cardboard. If they do it, fumbling fingers. If you do it, you’re in a dominant role. I realize cards are supposed to give the participants flexibility and agency, but in fact the card format can be limiting.

I usually use the flipchart myself, and do a cover sheet detailing the road we’ll take (with room for adaption) and do a lot of careful lettering and drawing as we go along. It’s my space, for adhoc presentation. I visualize concepts in ways I’ve standardized. I feel I owe the participants something reliable to flip back through to review where we’ve been. I’d use a dry wipe board for adhoc notes that can get wiped away, but there usually isn’t one available in these seminar rooms.

But this time, after Jason Renshaw posted an invitation to teachers to show their boardwork (with lots of responses, including Emma Harrod using stickies, which is nicer for sorting than cards, the “un-stick” sound is more pleasant), I thought about how I dominate the visual space in these very structured courses, and decided I need to get out of there, and them in there, and change and simplify things, asking everyone to collect their ideas on the flipchart. As I watched my lovely participants at Bender congregate, unceremoniously and in a very relaxed mood writing things up, talking things over, moving around, coming back to add something else, I thought: This is good. Next time I’ll have participants use the board more, and in more ways. Handing over.

PS: The next morning, looking through this, I’m thinking that perhaps it’s not just the sheet of paper I want the participants to have, after all. Maybe it’s more different materials and shapes to play with and collect in a collage that maps out our course and lets us retrace our steps. I should get a bigger sheet of paper for the pinboard to glue things to. In fact, I’ve just arranged for paper to be there at my next seminar in Cologne next week :)

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

4 thoughts on “Simplicity: Flipchart rather than pinboard”

  1. Hi Anne,
    how nice to see our flipchart from Tuesday. And YES, it brought back the whole essence of looking after international guests, small talk and taking the conversation further.

    Your seminar was delightful and ALIVE with yours and our energies. Hardly a boring moment.

    I was intrigued to learn about the small, but important, differences in our cultural behaviour. Because you are native American, it was very convincing what you said about the American ‘superior’ ways. A lot makes more sense to me now.

  2. in my opinion the beauty of black or whiteboards is in peer or trainer lead error correction, or likewise if you have coloured chalk visual representation of a grammar point.
    If I use the blackboard for other functions I restrict my space to 1/2 or 2/3, depending on size, to be roughly equal to that of a flip chart: with a column for vocabulary.
    This aids simplicity and avoids the chaos of generative (which my lessons tend to be) board work.

  3. I like the vocabulary column, Stew. And the beauty of boards is that they go across, landscape-style, whereas the tall format of the flip chart doesn’t let you keep that column separate. Looking forward to experimenting next week.

  4. Dear Monika, thanks very much for writing! Your group was great to teach. You’ve got a good vibe going there at Bender! Hope you figure out some good ways to apply your insights. I’m very intrigued that some ways struck you as “superior”. I think it’s what we like about other ways that makes us want to come together, get the best of both worlds, and when there’s a problem, find a solution. Do stay in touch by email and it would be lovely to see you again some time :-)

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