"Flip It!" is a small group cooperative learning activity which my wife Barb and I learned about at a workshop on cooperative learning several years ago. My name is Pete Jones and I am Head of Modern Languages at Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.

"Flip It!" increases student-student interaction in the language class and also increases student talk time in the target language.

Here's how we adapted it to the modern languages classroom. We hope that you will find it both useful and practical.

Firstly, we always model for the students what we want them to do later on in the lesson.

So, we put up on the overhead projector a picture of a person wearing a hiking outfit with boots and a hat with a purple head band. On this person's back there is a ruck sack and a sleeping bag. You can choose whatever picture of a person you have handy from your files.

We invite students to describe in French whatever they see in the picture. Once we have done a full description, we ask them to "pass" beyond the picture and to think about what the person's name is, where the scene might take place, what the person's favourite food/show/pastime/hobbies/books might be.

This sets the scene for later

We now have the students number off 1/2 or A/B or Mr. Spok and Captain Kirk - whatever you want. Choose your favourite movie or TV shows!

We give to each group of two a laminated picture mounted on constructuion paper - a picture of a person or persons.

We ask Captain Kirk to start, in French, a description of the picture - just like we did on the overhead projector.

After 10 seconds, we say "Flip It!" and Mr. Spok takes over the description. After another 10 seconds or so we say "Flip It!" again and the description reverts back to Captain Kirk.

Do this for as long as you want and then tell the students to stop.

The next thing we do is have ONE of the two students describe the picture using the details they related to each other during the "Flip It!"

The students do not know in advance who will be called upon to show the picture to the class and relate to the class the description that has taken place inside the group of two. (Individual Accountability) It could be Kirk or it could be Spok - they don't know, it is up to you to choose.

Before the students get going on "Flip It!" we tell them that the description has to be continuous with no breaks, so that if they are "stuck", they are allowed to repeat something that they or their partner has already said.

The advantages of this cooperative activity are:

Everybody speaks.

All students are actively engaged.

Weaker students have a chance to practise before being called on.

You will notice that the noise level in the class dramatically increases but it is a good noise - the noise of the target language.


When I finish teaching a grammar point, for example, the imperfect tense and its formation, I use "Flip It!" as follows:

I have the students write on a piece of paper five verbs - chanter, écouter, parler, regarder, téléphoner and I tell them that they are going to conjugate them with je, tu, il, elle, nous, vous, ils and elles using "Flip It!"

Have Spok begin and use "Flip It!" as described above. You will find that some students finish before others - I let them know this in advance and invite them to sit back quietly and listen to the others while they finish their "Flip It!" The last group to finish provides what I call the "echo" effect to the activity.

You can also have students "flip" a story you have just finished reading (or part of a story) - just to enable them to review what they have read.

You can also bring closure to the lesson by having them flip things that they learned in class today that they did not know when they came in through the door.

We hope that this may supply you with another pedagogical arrow to add to your quiver of small group cooperative learning strategies in the modern languages classroom.


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Barb and Pete


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Best Wishes from Whitby, Ontario, Canada - Barb and Pete Jones



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This page was updated on September 2nd 2000