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Now's Co-operative Newsletter
I June 2000, #8

Well if the meaning of communication is in the response then the last newsletter must have meant something. It generated no replies at all!

Incidentally the premise that the meaning of communication is in the response is a premise from NLP - Neuro Linguistic Programming. This issue I'd like to explore the flashcard game from Spencer Kagan's Co-operative Learning (Kagan Cooperative Learning, 1994) from an NLP perspective.



PS This newsletter is now reaching out of Japan and into Europe and Canada. So I'm trying to drop the references to English and Japanese and use the phrase target language and mother tongue (is it still OK to use this phrase?), if I make a mistake I guess you'll know what I mean.

NL - What???

NLP has been described as "the science and art of excellence". Rather than asking why NLP is concerned with asking how. It began in the 70's when John Grindler an assistant professor of linguistics got together with Richard Bandler who was a student of psychology and mathematics with an interest in psychotherapy. Their initial approach was to examine the work of Fritz Perls (the founder of Gestalt therapy), Virginia Satir (an outstanding family therapist) and Milton Erickson (the father of modern hypnotherapy). Rather than study they modelled. At one point Bandler even grew a beard and changed his accent in his attempt to model Fritz Perls. The aim was to discover the communication patterns used by Perls, Satir and Erickson and produced them in a form that could be used by others. This idea that anything one person can do can be done by anyone is one of the presuppositions of NLP. Here are some more - you can think about them,

  1. The map is not the territory
  2. Experience has a structure
  3. The mind and body are one system
  4. People work perfectly
  5. Every behaviour has a positive intention
  6. We always make the best choices available to us
  7. We already have all the resources we need
  8. There is no failure - only feedback
  9. You cannot not communicate


There is a Time for Believing Nothing
So that you do not speak
What you have already heard.
There is a Time for Keeping Quiet

from Many Winters (prose and poetry of the Pueblos) by Nancy Wood

The Flash Card Game (slightly adapted)

Students play this game in pairs. To play the game you'll need some flashcards with pictures on one side and the word on the other. Each pair of students use five or six flashcards at a time. The game is played in a series of rounds.

Round 1

The first player takes the cards and shows them one at a time to the second player. The first player shows both sides of the card so that the second player is answering using short-term memory. When the second player names the card the first player hands it over and at the same time praises the second player in an exaggerated fashion. "You're great!" "Fantastic!" "Wow!"

If the second player makes a mistake the card goes to the back of the pile. The first player gives some hint about the answer as well as the answer. The hint could be a gesture or a sound or the first syllable of the word - anything that helps.

Play continues until the second player has all the cards. Each time the second player receives a card the first player gives praise. Roles are then reversed, so at the end of round one the first player will have all the cards once more.

Round Two

Repeat as for round one but this time the first player shows only the word side of the card. If the second player doesn't recognise the word or makes a mistake the first player shows the picture side, gives a hint and puts the card to the back of the pile. The first player should now avoid giving the answer but instead only use hints. When the second player has all the cards again roles are reversed.

Round Three

The same as for round two, except the answers from player two should be instantaneous.

Round Four (optional)

Player one shows player two the picture side. Player two now names the card and spells the word.


A self ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
" Equality,'' I spoke their word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

My Pack Pages by Bob Dylan


When I first encountered this game I was dubious about the use of praise. I also wasn't sure it qualified as a game. But I was intrigued because I had been getting students to do the same task - teaching each other vocabulary but without the praise.

The praise is what makes this activity a game.

Without the praise the role of the first player is very mechanical. But if the first player is required to use a different form of phrase each time then the role becomes both challenging and fun.

Praise is a very powerful force, even in a foreign language. Our beliefs shape our outcomes. As Henry Ford once remarked, "Whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can't - you're right." For many of us our beliefs are effected by our environment. The praise in the game helps create a positive relaxed environment. It works because it is exaggerated. It becomes true because it isn't judgmental.

The method used in the flashcard game assumes and ensures success. The game can be used when dealing with new vocabulary as well as renewing old vocabulary. By teaching each other the vocabulary the students are unconsciously accepting that they know and understand it.

Of course it is possible that both players forget a vocabulary item. In co-operative learning the teacher should be the last resource. That means that the players should seek help from other students first. The usual style of co-operative learning is to establish groups of four. So a pair of students that get stuck would normally ask the second pair in their group. If no-one in the group knows the answer then they get to ask a group question. One member of the group goes to another group and asks. So in this way the teacher is only approached when the class have exhausted all their resources.

It's very important that learning isn't reduced to a competition of who knows and who doesn't. Lack of knowledge or understanding is a state of being. Games that are based on exploiting lack of knowledge are abusive of self esteem.

Introducing the Game

wonderful - fantastic - stupendous - totally awesome - marvellous - superb

magnificent - brilliant - terrific - great - wow - cor - well done - nicely done

quite good - not bad - good job - nice - just so - that’s right

Before players can praise each other in English they need a repertoire. I start by teaching single words. Whole phrases come later. For students that can read give them a list of words on a handout. Show them the words for 30 seconds or so, then get them to put the handout away and reconstruct the list on the board. Avoid turning this into a competition of who can remember the most but you can challenge the entire class to name a target score, i.e predict how many words they can remember.

A tougher alternative is to get the students to write out the list. Give them one minute and then get them to swap papers with a partner. Each student now adds any missing words to their new list. After another minute they swap with a new partner and add words again. The lists should get longer and longer. Keep this going until every student has had several partners. Finally students can compare their last sheet with your original and correct the spelling.

For students that cannot read a chant is another way to give them some praise vocabulary. Here's one:

Good! Great! Won-der-ful, Fantastic!
Good! Great! Won-der-ful, Fantastic!
Good! Great! Won-der-ful, Fantastic!
Super, super, super, super, wow!

The last line should be said at twice the speed.

Students can stand in a circle and clap their hands for every word in the first three lines, punch the air with both hands for each super and wave their arms frantically in the air on wow.

A large group can play this as a game. One player walks around the circle to the rhythm of the chant. On the last super the player touches the shoulder of a player in the circle. That player leaps spectacularly into the middle as everyone says wow. The jumper becomes the new walker and the chant begins again. Vary the pace of the chant.

In addition to knowing some words of phrase students also need to learn how to present the flashcards to each other. They need to understand that they are teaching and helping each other. The best way is to choose one student and model the activity with that student. The best way to choose the student is randomly.

It's a great temptation to choose the most able student for demonstrations. But do this regularly and you are communicating that the other students are inferior. Moreover young children may well view your choice as a kind of competition. Whoever you choose wins because that child has your special attention. Whoever is not chosen has lost. By only using able students to demonstrate new activities you send the information that your activities are too difficult for less able students. By using randomness to select a student you are sending the message that any one can do it.

My Back (WEB) Pages

I've been ignoring my home page for much too long. I used MS Word to put it up and found the process so frustrating that I was reluctant to change it. But now I know a little about Dynamic HTML and I've got the urge to use it. My pages are under reconstruction.

The trouble is that different browsers react differently. What I see is what I get but what you see ain't necessarily the same. You can see a sample of an interactive double letter phonics game by pressing:


The page is under construction and changing daily. If you have the time please tell me how the page looks with your browser.


Life is what you make it
Hand me some glue
You stick with me and I'll stick with you
Life is what you make it,
Call it work, call it play
Life is what you make it
Let's make some today


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Note: Now's Co-operative Newsletter used photos to link to other sites. Some links have been replaced as the original websites have disappeared. Accordingly notall photos lead back to the sites they came from. Spelling has been left as was - ouch!

For the record:

Almost intact - just the link to the double letter phonics game is no more, as is the game.

last updated: 5th August 2005

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