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Tagul: Amazing Word Clouds

Although it isn’t a new service, I have just discovered a tag cloud generator called¬†Tagul, and I have to say that I love it! You may be familiar with Wordle, Tagxedo, or WordItOut, which are all very good sites (although I have been having some technical issues with Wordle lately), but if you haven’t yet come across Tagul in your internet meanderings, I encourage you to head over as soon as you finish reading this post.

Two of the things that set Tagul apart are the ease with which you can incorporate custom colors and shapes as well as the ability to link the tags in your cloud to different pages. I used the coffee cup image from the front of my website, added the text of the About Me section, and set it up so the PLAYDATE tag linked to the PLAYDATE L. A. website. It only took me a few minutes and I am very pleased by the results. Hover over the graphic to see how it works.

Tagul has several other noteworthy features. You can put words inside other words, customize your fonts (even for individual words within the cloud), export your image as a scalable vector graphic, and specify final image size, among others. Like most of my other favorite sites, it’s free, although it requires users to register with an email address.

There are many ways to use tag clouds in the classroom. Use them to highlight key words and concepts in passages from literature or famous speeches. Create two clouds using primary source document accounts of the same historic event written from different perspectives and compare them. Create custom images for report covers or website headers. (Check out this one here; it’s my first effort, but I’m pretty proud of it!) If you have another great idea, please share in the comments.

First Grade Writing with StoryKit

Just before winter break, I was in need of a quick project that first graders could do independently while their teacher and I pulled individual students to work with us. We decided to use Storykit and have them create books about the holidays.

Storykit is an iPhone app created by the International Children’s Digital Library. It works well on the iPad, but if you are looking for it in the iTunes Store, you need to look in the iPhone Apps category. It allows users to create an electronic story book that they can enhance by adding pictures, drawings, text, and audio. Books can be accessed through the StoryKit app or shared via email.

We showed the students how to create a page, take and insert a picture, and add text (about 5 minutes total), then paired them up. The children were asked to take a picture of their partner, ask the partner what he/she liked about the holidays, and then type the response using the format “He/She likes…” After the first child had taken a turn, the second partner took the iPad and created a page about the first child.

The whole project went much better than we ever expected. When there was a problem the children collaborated and solved it themselves. They helped each other spell unfamiliar words, use the camera, and troubleshoot problems. Using four iPads, the first graders were able to create pages for 26 children in just under half an hour. No adult help was required, the kids were engaged and empowered, and the resulting books were adorable.

They could have been published just as they were, but later that week, to complete the project, the teacher had the students draw cover pages, which they photographed and added to their books. She also worked with small groups on the spelling. Had she wanted to, she could also have asked each child to record a sentence. The books were saved on the iPads for the students to read and were also shared with the families via email. Here is an example (children’s faces blurred for privacy).

Screenshot of book

I could see this project being used in many ways at different times of year. It could be a “get to know you” book for the beginning of a school year. Kindergarteners could create an “I see” sight word book, perhaps with pictures the teacher has already added to the camera roll.