And it's so simple.
- Collect as many positive comments about each child/teacher as possible. I've done this a couple of ways: by giving each child an A3 sheet printed with the class list with room for to write their comments next to the names; interviewing each child individually whilst sitting in front of my computer and typing their comments directly into a spreadsheet. It really depends on the age and ability of the group.
- Collate all of the comments about each person into one digital file. Add the person's name.
- Use one of the web 2.0 tools such as wordle.net to create a word cloud.
The little hints that I have to share about each stage:
- First up let me tell you that this is the hardest part of the whole task:
- Some kids just don't invite positive comments from their peers. You know the ones I mean: little Johnny who is still learning about social skills and personal hygiene. (Note: I'm not suggesting that little Johnny can't be described positively but that his peers aren't necessarily the ones who are going to do it.)
- Getting appropriate comments without spilling the secret is, in the case of some children, impossible. Again, you know the ones I mean: the ones who think 'you're phat as!' is a compliment.
- Getting comments that are one or two words long can be tricky. I encouraged the use of adjectives or two word noun groups.
- In a class of 31 students and 2 teachers that's 32 lots of 3 comments. That's actually a lot of work for some kids; especially if you ban words like nice, cool and epic. (Which ,of course, I did.)
- Can be time consuming and mind numbingly boring. (Also very funny. I had to laugh at 'he is learning not to hit me in the face so much and nearly always apologises now'.) Be mindful that if you are using wordle.net that the more frequently a word appears in the list the bigger it will be in the word cloud. If you want the person's name to stand out you need to add it however many times to make it appear most frequently. Also... I used this stage to add any characteristics that I wanted to encourage.
- There are a few around. I like wordle.net for its simplicity. It's a bit clunky and I get frustrated with having to reset the 'custom palette' BUT it does exactly what I want it to do, for free, pretty easily.
- With wordle.net you can't save directly to a file (unless printing to a pdf in the print dialogue box) so I use a snipping tool to then save as a jpg. I then inserted the jpgs into a publisher document to get the exact size I wanted for the frames I'd bought. Have a play to find what works best for you.
- I bought small inexpensive frames for the kids from Ikea. I glued a little slip on the back saying that these words were how their classmates and teachers had described them in 2013 and that we hoped it reminded them of the awesome time we spent together.
Easy, a little time consuming but SO well worth the effort. I wish I could share the photos I took after I handed them out because the reactions were beautiful. They have a longer effect too. A few weeks ago I ran into the mother of one of my students from last year who told me that it's still on her daughter's wall (a year later!) and that her daughter will often take it down to look at when she's feeling stressed about life. Gotta tell you: hearing that made my day.
Should you ever decide to give it a go and run into trouble please get in contact and I'll see what I can do to help!