10 Tips for Using Flip Books in Secondary ELA

What do heavy backpacks, stuffed binders, and busy students all have in common? Information overload. Each school day, teens and tweens are being given worksheets, packets, readings, textbooks, and more… for six or more classes.

Though not a cure-all, flip books are a great alternative to give students information or guide them through a sequence. Chatting with us today is Danielle Knight, a flip book guru and fellow English teacher!

1. Why use flip books at all?
Danielle: Flip books in the ELA classroom brings more excitement and adds flavor to daily lessons rather than using the normal everyday worksheet. The flipbook format works really well with diverse learners and learners with special needs. My personal experiences the flipbook format is consistent, user-friendly, highly organized, and easy to maintain.

Sara: Another positive about flipbooks is that they can replace not just worksheets, but big overwhelming packets. When the information is visually interesting AND all within reach, the content doesn’t have a chance to be “out of sight, out of mind”; students are more likely to flip through the information and USE the content!

2. What are the benefits of a flip book for students in an English class?
Danielle: Teachers can be consistent with them throughout the school year. They are great review tools as well. I love during a midterm or final exam review seeing my students at their desk with several flip books out. Students don't have to search through a thousand sheets of paper. The flip books are organized, stapled neatly, and completed. Students can go through their flip books to find answers for their review. This promotes a student centered review, which puts the teacher in the role of facilitator rather than the “answer-giver.”  

Sara: As Danielle said, I love seeing a flip book become a keepsake that gets referenced throughout the year. I’ve also noticed that more students actually keep my flip books for the next school year; I love when students see the value of what we’re doing in class and don’t just throw papers away!

3. What topics work well in a flip book format?
Danielle: Over time I've realized that the flip book format works really well when it comes to a novel study because there's always the same concepts I want to cover in the novel: for example, an author study, thematic response, literary devices, vocabulary, comprehension questions, the plot diagram, etc. I also like to cover something with characters.

The flip book format also works really well when promoting and teaching a particular formula. In science, there's flip books that have to do with different topics. An example is the solar system. There is a separate tab for each planet. With the water cycle, there's a different tab for each part of the water cycle.

Sara: I like using flip books to “house” vocab-heavy content, like rhetoric and propaganda, and I second Danielle’s thought about using it for processes. I had a lot of success with my narrative writing flip book, which guides students through the brainstorming, writing, and editing process to make their own short stories.

4. Don't they take forever to assemble?
Danielle: At first of course when you start using them, it can look overwhelming. Watching a video or reading a tutorial on a blog or watching a video on how to assemble it really helps.  

I like to create one before my students do and put it up on the whiteboard to show them what it looks like when it's finished. I've learned to staple them ahead of time before I pass them out. This will also ensure all the pages are in the right order and also you don't have to “deal” with the stapling which can be time-consuming and sometimes difficult because of the thickness of the flip book.

Sara: Students get faster at it every time, especially if you stick to the same templates and show them the finished product under a document camera (so they know what to strive for). Obviously some flip books take more time than others, but if you have enough supplies in the room (like scissors), there’s no reason why it needs to take more than 20 minutes. Sometimes I assign it as homework, and other times it’s important for me to do it with them in class.

5. How would I assess the flip book?
Danielle: I approach the flip book as a project assessment. I do a daily flip book check and they'll get credit on the different parts of the flip book that has been assigned. In the end of the unit like before the test I will allow my students to use their completed flip book for like 10 minutes during a test for them to go back and find answers they may have missed on the test. This also promotes responsibility. Students will take pride in it and they are rewarded.

Sara: Assessment really varies by the flip book. Sometimes the book is more of a reference tool or formative assessment; other times, it is truly a project or summative grade that you can grade with a rubric or award points for completion. For example, if it’s a vocabulary flip book that you’re using over a longer period of time, it might just be a formative assessment that you grade as a checkpoint before a vocabulary test.

6. Do I have to use them in an interactive notebook or other journal?
Danielle: You don't. The flip books I create or normally 8.5 x 11. Therefore, they won't fit inside of a composition book. You can, however, reduce the size when you print to 80%. Then it will fit.  If this what you are planning, then I recommend stapling the back page to a composition book page. I prefer to have my students keep them in a pocket folder. I think that’s really the best way.

Sara: I also don’t use an INB, so I coach students about where to store theirs and tell them when they’ll need to make sure they have it in class. (For example: “Make sure you bring the grey analysis booklet every day this week, since we will be working on literary analysis quotes!”)

7. Do they still appeal to teens and older grades?
Danielle: The flip book is very versatile. The appeal ranges from Of Mice and Men - where the “look” of the resource is mature - to a flip book for Charlotte's Web, which will appeal to an upper elementary student based on the content, activities, and artwork.  

Sara: Definitely. I’ve never seen a student turn up their nose at a flip book - it’s too tempting for them to start digging through the flaps. I know AP Language classes of seniors who use my rhetoric flip book.

8. I have a 1:1 classroom; can flip books be paperless?
Danielle: Absolutely, flip books can be paperless. There is an easy way to format a digital flipbook in Google slides. Many of them are available already formatted for you.

Sara: Don’t forget that a flip book can be both: digital at first, and then printed for display, a portfolio, or just their binders. Or, maybe the flip book is the only paper-based tool in a unit that is otherwise digital. I know a teacher who did this with my Types of Essays Unit.
9. What's your favorite flip book resource that I can use as a starting point?
Danielle: I really love the short stories flip book for the beginning of the school year.  Each tab is a different featured short story. I created it to ensure students will have different activities to engage in that would appeal to multiple intelligences and different learning styles. I think starting with a short story flip book will be faster to complete. For example, for grade 9 ELA, The Monkey's Paw, is short, highly engaging, and is a great read for the fall months due to its gothic theme. Really spooky and the audio companion can be found for free on YouTube.

Sara: Also, Danielle has a free test prep flip book, and my Response to Literature flip book is free when you sign up for my newsletter!

10. What if I want to make my own flip book?
Sara: I’m a fan of Danielle’s template, which can be found here. (She also has a template for mini flip books.)

Do you have more ideas or suggestions? Tell us in the comments!

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