Friday, June 6, 2014

Where Have You Been All My Life, Tagxedo?

     How did I make it to June 2014 without once hearing about Tagxedo?  (No, I do not teach in a cave.) Learning to navigate this fabulous, FREE app takes about five minutes, thereby leaving you endless hours for experimentation.

     As with Wordle, a similar app for designing "word clouds," the size of the words in a Tagxedo shape is determined by the number of times you repeat it.  If, for design purposes, you want "Wonder" to be the most prominent word in your shape, then type it four times more than any other words you use.


     Idea:  If I copy and paste one of my blogs into Tagxedo, will I discover I've been overusing any words?  Randomly selecting The Evolution of Wonder in Room A110, I copy and paste in the text, make my design choices, and hit "save."  Whew!  "Very" is not the largest word in my Tagxedo'd heart, but for a lot of beginning writers, I bet it might be.  Wouldn't that be a fun activity for helping younger students discover their "overworked words"?  Plus, learning to copy and paste text is of huge benefit to novice keyboarders.

     Tagxedo could also be used to analyze nonfiction text.  Determining a passage's main idea is a difficult skill made easier when students first identify the topic. Wait a minute!  By and large, the topic of a passage is repeated more frequently than any other word(s).  So if you copy and paste a nonfiction passage into Tagxedo, one or two of the larger words will probably be the topic, right?  Let's give it a try.

     Here's the Tagxedo result after cutting and pasting in a passage about Helen Keller from biography.com:


     I like it, don't you?  The apple shape, one of many choices offered in Tagxedo's shape menu, suggests the student/teacher relationship of Helen and Anne Sullivan.  The larger words inside the shape -- hand, blind, water, deaf, word, letters -- bring to mind the pivotal moment in Helen's life when she first connected the hand-spelled letters for "w-a-t-e-r" with the sensation of water rushing over her hand.  (Remember:  I didn't choose the words to enlarge - Tagxedo did.)

    Many middle school students struggle to analyze informational text on any topic.  It would be interesting to have them examine a teacher-designed shape before reading the passage.  The class could make predictions about the text based on the larger-sized words.

     Or, after reading a short nonfiction passage online, students could cut and paste it into Tagxedo.  The larger words appearing in the shape could help them determine the main idea.

     Answers to any questions you may have about Tagxedo are readily found in countless YouTube videos.  You can even learn how to input shapes other than the ones on the menu.  Take a look at this one!


     Are you starting to visualize the possibilities for your academic area?  I'll even spot you an ice-breaker for the students' first week back to school:  
  • Type "Summer" ten times into Tagxedo 
  • Choose ten fun activities you did (e.g. reading) and type them in, three times each 
  • Choose ten things you enjoyed the most (e.g. movies) and type each thing two times 
  • Make your design choices, hit "save" -- and voila!  

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Now go enjoy your summer!