Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Word It Out

Word clouds are the new thing. You see them all the time on the sides of articles and other web pages. Ever want to create your own? Now you can.

Word It Out allows you to create custom word clouds, and then do things with them. Want to put it on a mug or a shirt? You can. Wanna place it on your web page or blog? You can.

I am fascinated by this for an application for my English class. This program allows you to take text from anywhere -- a chapter from a novel, a primary source document, or a vocabulary and definition list -- and will make a word web out of it. Why might this be cool? Let's see...

How about create a word web for a chapter of a novel we are reading and use it as a quiz? Students would have to pick four or five words from the web and explain why they are important for the chapter and the novel.

Same could apply for a primary document. Take the Declaration of Independence. Have kids explain why words were placed in the web and the concepts that those words represent from the document.

How about as a study aid for vocabulary? Webs could be created with words and their definitions, and students would need to match the words together. Or how about antonyms? or synonyms? Endless possibilities.

What would you do with a word cloud?

Check out the one I made for the first chapter of Fahrenheit 451:

Word cloud made with WordItOut

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Figment: A Writer's Community

When designer Jacob Lewis created Figment.com, he was hoping to create a new social network, a new Facebook, for teen writers. It didn't work out that way, but became a pretty cool site where students could post, read, and respond to original writing.

And maybe that budding young author can find a publisher.

That's right, a few publishing houses have signed on to the site to hunt out fresh young talent. So it's an opportunity for more than just getting peers to look at student writing. Professionals may be too.

The site provides a wealth of educational possibilities. Finding an authentic medium for publication is often difficult for student writers. This site provides that 'real world' experience. In addition, there are many built in options to allow for commentary and critical feedback, from easy 'how did this writing make you feel?' radial buttons, to comment boxes, to whole review options.

I have recently offered my kids the current contest from figment as an extra credit opportunity.  I will see how they use the site and how well the contest piques their interest.  We shall see.

Check out the current contest here.

I am also looking forward to trying this site out with my students by having them 'publish' their personal narrative assignments. It will be interesting to see what feedback the students get from not only their peers here at school, but other writers from around the world.

Check out this article from the New York Times about the inception and development of Figment.com.

And then, check out Figment. com!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Rice

Continuing with the vocabulary idea, FreeRice.com is an amazing site that not only teaches students new words, but also feeds the hungry through the UN World Food Program. Study vocabulary and help end world hunger at the same time!

I have used this site in the classroom to encourage students to prepare for the state assessments, the PSAT, and the SAT. It is a learning game, which means that the words get harder each time you get an answer correct. By creating a login, you can track your progress and compare your abilities to other members of the site.

Teachers can create a classroom group and let students face off against each other to earn rice and learn vocabulary. The students really get into it to see who is the "wordiest".

The site also quizzes on other topics than English vocabulary. You can feed the hungry and quiz yourself on art by identifying artists of famous paintings, chemistry symbols, geography where you identify countries on a map, and more.

And Leslie, this one has Spanish vocabulary!! You can have your kids practice with this site, even if they can't get on Visuwords!

Check it out here:


Tuesday, November 30, 2010


This is a cool website that graphically shows connections between word definitions, derivations, and relationships. You can type in a word and have the graphic show the relationships, or if you have the time and inclination, hit the random button to get interesting word derivations and learn something new.

By double clicking your mouse over the different elements in the graphic, additional information pops up to elaborate on the words and related words. Color coding helps learners see the relationships between the words.

A cool way for students to find definitions of words in liu of dictionary.com.

I used this in my classroom having students define words related to our year long curriculum such as archetype, tragedy, comedy, romance, hero, courage, challenge, and fate.  Having the students then write about the web that appeared and the connections between the words supported by the web allowed them to internalize the vocabulary.

From the site:
Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary — Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate.
Enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. Click and drag the background to pan around and use the mouse wheel to zoom. Hover over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections.
  • It's a dictionary! It's a thesaurus!
  • Great for writers, journalists, students, teachers, and artists.
  • The online dictionary is available wherever there’s an internet connection.
  • No membership required.

Visuword. Check it out.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Greetings Friends

So here is where I will post my rambles on technology and such that we can all ruminate on over the course of the semester. Let your brain go...