Day 2: Tagxedo and Book Clubs

Today we finished up our Snapshots and posted them.  We also saw a wonderful presentation about starting reading groups in class.  Below are a few gems from the day.


Word clouds are getting more and more popular lately.  In a nutshell, a word cloud takes a paragraph/story/book and creates a visual display of the words used.  The more a word is written in the selection, the larger it appears.  We learned about two sites that allow you to create word clouds (for free) and customize them as you like.  You can change fonts, color, and Tagxedo even allows you to change the shape of the word cloud.  So much fun!  Our assignment tonight was to create one using our Snapshot pieces.  Once created, I realized I wanted to emphasize certain words so I went back to the text and simply typed those words a few times so that when processed, they appeared larger.

As you can tell, my writing was about my family.  This was so much fun!  I can't wait to use it in my own classroom.  My big plans are to create one for each theme.  I will combine my students' writing/dictation to create one and type it myself.  I can also use the variety of shapes to specialize the cloud to match the theme (they even have Lincoln and MLK!)  I will enlarge the tagxedo to poster size and display it proudly with the writing.  I may also use it as the illustration for student books, or as a way to introduce vocabulary before reading a story.  So many possibilities!  Experiment now at

Book Clubs

Before breaking into groups, we had a great conversation about how important book clubs are and what we need to keep in mind to motivate young readers.  We discussed some awesome points that seem obvious, but are easy to forget.
  • Have a "book rich" classroom: make books easily accessible and plentiful.  The more books available, the better.  Don't forget to provide comfy places to enjoy all those books.
  • Let kids choose their own books: choice drives motivation!  One leader suggested an activity (Book Pass) where students sit in groups and get acquainted with a group of books.  Each student grabs a book from a pile in the middle, looks at the cover, first page, author, etc. and writes a short comment to remember it for later choosing.
  • Readers like stories with which they are familiar: stock up on great series and books by the same author.
  • Let your students interact with each other: sharing about books spreads the word and gets kids motivated, looking deeper, and talking!
  • Reward with books: who wouldn't love a book?

Books as rewards

We talked about different ways teachers uphold these principles and what stood out most to me was rewarding with books.  Some teachers buy books for the students to take home, while others bought them for the class.  Both ideas begin with kids looking through book orders (especially those with families who can't afford to buy).  I LOVE this idea!  My first thought was a book center.  I always have a pile of extra book orders after passing them out.  Now, before they go in the recycle, I'll set them aside for the kids to browse.  I plan on setting up a center with book orders, scissors, and glue.  Students can cut and glue their selections (even graph them!) and I can use my bonus points to stock our classroom library.  Greatest idea ever...instead of a popsicle party, our class can earn books!

Book Club meeting

Before we broke up into groups, we wrote a letter to our fellow members.  We introduced ourselves as readers, briefly discussed our earliest memories of reading, and how we got to where we are today as a reader.  After writing the letter, we met in groups and read the letters aloud.  It was a great ice-breaker and I really liked that I was able to organize my thoughts before jumping in.  After we read our letters, we introduced our books (which can be all different or the same) and read the lead (first paragraph).  We are now all hooked and ready to hear more about these books.  Our next assignment will focus on the main character.

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