Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Five Senses of Winter

I went to lie down the other night after being up most of the night working on lesson plans and other projects I had been wanting to do on the computer, but never finding the time, and found that even though I was beyond exhausted-tired, my over-active creative brain would not let me sleep. Never mind the big log-sawing bear beside me, also making it difficult for sleep to overcome me. (The realization that I had to get up for school in a little more than an hour didn't help matters any, either.)

As I laid there listening to the vicious snoring behind me, my mind began to wander through crafting land with visions of words, clip art, and torn pages mingled and danced around my head. Words connected by a centralized theme twirled around every which way in an iridescent array of colors falling and stacking much like the blocks in Tetris. If I wasn't so exhausted I would have gotten up and gone right back on the computer to work on the ideas that tumbled around in my brain. The more I thought of them, the more I liked them. And then the more I felt I wouldn't be able to use the ideas with my students who were learning about the five senses and winter. And, the more I tossed and turned mulling over the idea.

The next night the idea was still at work in me, so I sat down at the computer to flesh it out and bring it to life.

Last month a colleague and I were fortunate enough to attend an all day Discovery Education workshop where she, my colleague, learned about some nifty word play sites. One of the sites was a site called "Wordle" that turned lists of words into a work of art.

I began to think about a lesson I had been planning for the Kindergartners where we would experience more of each of the seasons by relating the seasons to their senses. (What does winter smell like? What things do you see in the winter? And so on.) And I thought about "Wordle." Then I thought about them creating a journal, and the journal ended up looking something more like a scrapbook.

For those unfamiliar with "Wordle", the site is a "word cloud" generator. It allows you to type or paste in text which it then takes, jumbles up, and presents them in an array of directions and colors. You can also customize the color palette and the font of the words. You also can change the layout of the text and the background color. The word clouds end up looking something like this:

Then I started thinking about the students tearing the edges and decorating around it with pictures that relate to their words, and wondering what other technical elements I could have them add, or how else I could have them utilize the computer as a tool for their project. Before I knew it, I was in photoshop turning my "Wordle" into a digital scrapbook page.

Now, I'm thinking of trying to work it into an older grade level lesson...


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