Words. Phrases. Vocabulary. Subject specific language. We want children to use it in the correct way. We want them to try things out…take risks…be adventurous. We want pupils to identify and ‘magpie’ good ideas and extend their use of the English language. But it’s not always easy – how can we get them using language in the way we want them too? Maybe we need to get creative…
Word wheels, particularly with pictures or a subject specific background are a lovely way to develop vocabulary based around a topic. The image shown above was created using a setting included in 2Simple’s online creative space, Purple Mash (it’s included in 2Publish Extra): a product that recently won an ERA award and is really worth checking out! You can add up to eight words on this template (just enough in one go for younger ones or those with ALN) and the clip art library (plus other tools) is available for illustrating the wheel or individual words – it’s really easy to use! Also, in my opinion, pupils are far more likely to use a word wheel if they’ve created something themselves that they can be proud of: get them laminated so pupils can keep them in their trays or include them in their spelling journals, if you use them.
Older pupils might like to create their own calligrams for a working wall or display. You can do this in a number of ways with the pupils. This resource was created by downloading a whole load of appropriate free fonts from a website like Dafont but students could try creating their own calligrams using a combination of Word Art, autoshapes and appropriate fonts on a desktop publishing program like Microsoft Publisher. If you prefer, and you have a suitable art or graphics package available, you could use a program like 2Draw or Revelation Natural Art to create a similar effect and, if you haven’t got something like that installed, look online to web based applications like Sumo Paint – it has a text setting and is absolutely free!
Using a word cloud program to create a vocabulary mat is a pretty cool thing to do, especially as there a number of available word cloud generators to use. Wordle is a usable as ever and I have always loved the way you can customise your palette to reflect or enhance the meaning of the words. The fonts are not always as child friendly as they could be though, so it’s a good job that ABCWordYa has a selection of ‘friendlier’ fonts even if the features are not as extensive. Word it out is another worthy addition to this groups of word cloud generators but top of the tree has to be Tagxedo: allowing you to add shape to your word cloud is an act of pure genius.
Of course there are loads of other great things you can do in your classroom to help your pupils build a great vocabulary and not all of them involve technology. Make a word or sentence tree (although I really do like the one shown here for use on an IWB – it can be different every day and pupils can interact with it), create flash cards with picture or super cool word mats (or save time by searching online to find them already made for you), include key vocab on your working wall…just have fun with it. One free download I want to remind you of before signing off is Textorizer (as seen above in the picture of MLK) : free, cool and allows you to use an image as a background to overlay words on. Why not have a play with it (or any of the other ideas presented here)and see what you can create?
You know, I’m pretty much the ‘out on a limb’ type: I often plan things that are a little bit unusual and have tenuous links to the topics being covered. I like a bit of leeway here and there. I like to take things in an unexpected direction. There are, however, skills to cover and these still need to be included in lessons as it’s an important part ICT. But doing it in a fun and engaging way is also key.
I like unusual activities. There’s the lovely menu project (as outlined on ‘Come Dine With Me) and a whole host of others. Ever thought about designing a theme park around a local area using PowerPoint (skills recapped: word art, text boxes, use of the spellchecker, inserting pictures, using Autoshapes and slide transition)? How about using Audacity and Movie Maker to create small information films and travel guides about our local area? What about linking ICT to Science work, using PowerPoint Autoshapes to design sportswear and logos. If your interested in making sessions challenging how about using my World Cup Challenge where pupils can go in any direction they chose as long as it fits the brief . there’s the Mathematical challenge and a number of others in the set.
Creative ICT can involve looking at different types of computer based art, graphics and photo editing packages. Pupils can try out a whole load of different types of software: some you might have installed at school (2Paint a Picture, Revelation Natural Art, to name a couple of common ones) and some that are web based (Bomomo, Brushster, SumoPaint etc.). Some that are mainly for photo editing and manipulation (Fotoflexer, Tuxpi etc.), photo collage applications (Andrea Mosaic, Shape Collage etc. ) and some that aren’t really art packages at all but have artistic merits (Wordle, PowerPoint, Textorizer etc.).
Pupils can use a Photo Album PowerPoint template or Ript to create digital art scrapbooks showcasing their efforts, writing little comments about their work. By the end of the session get them to decide on a favourite application and what they liked about it. So that everyone is focused on adding content to the scrapbook, add their names to the fruit machine random name generator available via Classtools – and use it to choose pupils to come up front and showcase their work – that way you can carry out some self evaluation and peer evaluation (like 2 stars and a wish) during your plenary.
There are lots of things we can try and do in the classroom to inspire the use of descriptive language and get the children to think creatively about words. Much has been posted about using web based applications such as Wordle in a number of different ways. There are a number of uses for it listed at the excellent Ideas to Inspire website and the ever wonderful Tim Rylands blogged about using it creatively just recently. it’s a tool you can use in all sorts of ways. Pop it on the IWB and use it as a word bank. Get pupils to create one with all the things they remember about a recent topic (easy way to see how much they remember). Make a word mat. The list goes on.
One of the things I like to do in Wordle is to change the colour scheme by creating a custom pallette - an simple enough thing to do and something that can really make a difference to the way you Wordle appears. An array of greens and browns for writing on a forest theme. A collection of different blues for a watery theme. Check out the image above to find out more. Also, check out WordItOut. Not as many fonts as Wordle but it does look as if it’s aimed at the educational sector. Worth a look at least
But enough of Wordle! There’s so much other great stuff out there that we could be using to. For younger pupils (although older ones like it to) you can make pictures out of Word Art words and letters or import an image into PowerPoint or Publisher and use the word art and interesting fonts to help create a shape poem. For the one example above (created in PowerPoint 2007 but a similar idea can be created using 2003) I downloaded and installed free fonts that I felt would work well – Sweetleaf for the leaves and one called cheap fire for ‘Night fell’. Phrases and words were just rotated and transformed to fit the image.
My final offering for today is Textorizer – there’s a version that runs online or you can download the application to run on your own computer. It works quite simply – you choose your image paste in you text and create. You have options to change the size of font, font used, how faded the image is behind the writing in the menu on the left hand side and the website really helps you get started. I think the results look amazing – fabulous blown up on a display. I envisage using it in a similar way to Tim Ryland’s previously mentioned Wordle idea but I’m sure you can think of other things to do with it – just have a go!
Countdown to Christmas has begun and in schools all over the country children are producing items to take home or sell at Christmas events. There are numerous opportunities for this to be linked to ICT skills using a number of different applications. You could use 2Paint a picture to create a repeated winter pattern (see below), so that the printed paper can be used to construct a simple gift bag. In fact it’s pretty easy to come up with ideas for the younger pupils – they’re usually quite happy to create images, cards, gift tags and other such items.
But what about your more discerning older child: those in Year 5 or Year 6. They might want to make something a little more grown up, particularly if it’s something to take home or use as a gift. So here’s a cool idea that uses the free online application with absolutely loads of uses – Wordle. Start by creating a 2010 calendar using Microsoft Publisher for all the pupils to use as a basis for their project. Let them alter the font scheme or colour scheme if they wish (they could even have the option of making each page completely different if they wanted to). All they then have to to do is create Wordles that represented the different months of the year, creating custom colour schemes for each one (if they feel it necessary) before saving the Wordles as images (you could use Gadwin print screen to do this) and then inserting them into the calendar template. Easy Peasy!
it can be great fun coming up with short lists of words to represent each month. You could make them a bit more personal if you wish! Use the tilde symbol (~) to link words together when you want to make short phrases (as you can see the example above uses the phrase ‘less days’). Pupils can also spend time creating custom colour palettes for some of the months – it increases the flexibility of Wordle as we could colour match words to items where possible (as above with valentine in the February example) or give the palette an overall colour scheme that reflected the month in question (as in the April example below using Spring colours)
Another thing that works well is to vary the layout and font on every month and to we try to match the font to the mood – notice how February used a free flowing cursive style font ( mainly because it is romantic looking) whilst the December example below uses a more angular font (because it looks colder).