Review of Visual Thesaurus

Today I am reviewing a great website that I found via a friend on twitter. The site is called Visual Thesaurus and is designed by Think Map. The site is a visual Thesaurus and Dictionary that breaks down words by using a web mapping platform along with categorical organization. What I did today was create three videos that show you how to use the Visual Thesaurus application, The Vocab Grabber Application and the Spelling Bee application. Each tool will help students see vocabulary and reading comprehension in a different light. The words jump from the pages and dance around on the computer screen in an organized fashion. I am very impressed with this site and their applications. I think every school district should put this software into their budget for the 2009-2010 school year and beyond. I know I will be using it in my classroom, will you?

As always, I welcome your feedback and experiences using these applications!
Enjoy the show…

Fun With Flickr

Two years ago, I attempted to enhance my weekly vocabulary units that I was presenting to my bored-out-of-their-mind-please-just-let-me-graduate-seniors. So I coordinated with our school librarian who was anxious for teachers to come visit her and present ideas that she could assist in developing! Plus, she was very fond of web 2.0 learning tools and was one of my early inspirations in transitioning my content out into the World Wide Web (that sounds like such an archaic term these days). Our goal was to liven up the vocabulary unit and utilize web 2.0 tools and some of the fancy new CFF (Classrooms For the Future) equipment we just received as part of a grant from the state. Here is what we came up with…but first, a brief video of what we did and how we got started…

Objective: When this unit is completed, students will be able to

1. Identify and understand new words in context

2. Define and use the word

Process: After the class discusses each word, students will be then be assigned one word. Students will perform the following tasks for Vocabulary Unit 4 with their Vocab Partner:

  1. Come up with five sentences for their word. Make sure you utilize context clues in each of your sentences.
  2. Take one sentence and create a way in which you can visualize that word for your peers to see and understand.
  3. Present the idea to the teacher for approval
    1. Once your idea is approved, you will take a digital camera and spend no longer than 3 minutes capturing your photo. MY NOTE: Anytime you use digital cameras, video cameras, microphones, etc. make sure you give the students a specific timetable to use that equipment. This will allow all students to move along in the process and will use class time efficiently.
  4. Once you have your photo taken, show it to the teacher for second approval and then obtain a USB cable for upload. Upload to our class flickr page.
  5. Once your photo is uploaded make sure you post the
    2. Part of Speech
    3. Definition that correlates to your photo
    4. Sentence
  6. You may also enhance your photo by visiting big huge labs dot com.

You will have 30 minutes on Monday and Tuesday to complete this project.

Grading will adhere to the following criteria:

  1. Spelling and Grammar……………..10……7…….4……..0
  2. Sentences………………………10…..7……..4……..0
  3. Visual Appeal and Clarity……..10…..7……..4……..0

And that was the assignment in a nutshell. The rubric is a rough sketch. I cannot find the original rubric we used, but it was similar to those guidelines.

Once we finished the project, we had a viewing of the words on Wednesday. Each group presented their word to the class. It was a fun and engaging way to jazz up learning new vocabulary and retention. I noticed my vocabulary quiz grades improve significantly after this project. The students actually looked forward to vocabulary and I actually caught some of them looking ahead to future units!

This lesson put a fun, easy twist on something that had been boring and trite to my students. It did not take a lot of class time and in the end served as a valuable learning and retention tool. If you are worried about class time being eaten up by projects like this, then put a time stamp on tasks and enforce your time cap! Tell students they will lose points if they lag behind. I found this project to take a little more time during the first run through, but as we approached each new vocabulary unit, students became aware of the process and time it would take to get it done. I rarely had to subtract points for time.

Here are some examples of student work with flickr and Big Huge Labs

Websites used:


Big Huge Labs

Podcast Vocabulary!

Today I will begin a two part series on ways to enhance studying through various free and practical online resources.

As most of us learn throughout our educational studies, no two students learn in the same fashion. Therefore, we are constantly summoned to differentiate our instruction. It is has become the most important component of any lesson plan in education today. Some of our students learn better visually; some have superb auditory functionality. So why not combine the two and utilize it in your classroom.

Here’s one way to do differentiate your instruction and incorporate a practical use of technology.


You begin your new vocabulary unit on Monday, with a looming quiz on Friday. You spend some time going over the list of twenty words and definitions in class, allotting time for definitions, context clues and usage. For homework you ask students to make flash cards for Friday’s quiz.

Same Scenario; Different Process

You begin your new vocabulary unit on Friday after the quiz, with a looming quiz the following Friday. Your students align with their assigned weekly vocabulary partner. They discuss the word together and develop a script. The students obtain a laptop from the COW (Computers on Wheels) and a microphone and begin recording. Students utilize the free Audacity program and create a 30 second public service announcement or commercial for the word they are assigned. Their script must include:

  1. The correct pronunciation of the word.
  2. The part of speech
  3. The definition of the word consistent with the part of speech
  4. Correct usage of the word in your commercial or PSA.

An example script may look like this for the word “Glean

Joe: This spring, students take to coffee shops around college campuses to glean information from their semester notes. Yes folks you’ll want to stay home, it’s college exam season.

Mary: That’s correct Joe, college students around the country are racing to gather information, bit by bit in order to pass their final exams. Citizens of these communities are being asked by officials to stay at home while over caffeinated college students run ramped.

Joe: Thanks Mary, for that riveting information! Now on to sports.

That is just one example of what your students could write, record and distribute to your class. It brings vocabulary to life and allows students to understand and use the word beyond memorizing the definition. Audacity files can be saved to your wiki or class moodle and it would even allow students to upload to their iPod.

This lesson is not to take the place of studying vocabulary, but it should enhance the process and for some, help understand the words better. You can also assign your students to simply record the word, definitions and part of speech to serve as a supplemental audio study guide for vocabulary.

With the audacity program, teachers and students in all disciplines can enhance the audible capabilities in the classroom. This program can be used as a study guide tool in various disciplines.

I look forward to hearing how you have used audacity or similar programs in your classroom!