I recently attended an inspiring lecture on creative writing in the context of  SPEAQ conferences at University. One of the activities that I enjoyed the most consisted of writing a number of words related to our own passion/favorite activity/hobbie in a way that these words took the shape of an object related to this leisure activity. Being an enthusiastic rated chess amateur, I wrote words such as study, self-confidence, discipline, focus, will, competition, preparation, analysis, calculation, intuition, and pokerface  in the shape of a chess pawn. The aim of such an activity was to present a sort of mind map which may help a student visualize a topic and find concepts related to it in a creative fashion. The idea of being able to visualize the concepts might enhance memory skills and may provide better  focus and concept associations. On the other hand, “word drawing”  stands out of the more common linear outlines used before starting a written draft.

Tagxedo is an application designed to create word clouds, and I tend to believe that it fits perfectly with the idea of creating visually attractive outlines before starting written compositions. Personally, after I put myself in the role of a student who was about to write a paper on chess and I had to immerse myself in the task of drawing a chess pawn as described above, I literally felt that my train of thoughts started taking a defined direction. On the other hand, it proved useful to relax and focus. Besides, the kind of concepts that I came up with ended up being meaningful, personal, and worth of analysis and introspection. I believe this is the kind of ideas and state of mind that a student might aim to get to during the usually demanding writing process. Beautiful examples of student topic-based word clouds are available in this gallery. I believe that if I were to write a paper myself, I would probably stick to drawing a shape by hand, as it helps me feel connected with my ideas in a rather organic way. But it is important to consider that young learners are used to working with digital tools, and I can only assume that they may feel as comfortable and focused as well. Here are a few more ideas about this tool. I recently observed during my practicum an activity where the teacher asked students to deliver a presentation on themselves. Several students had a hard time coming up with ideas on how to get started. Something like this may have been helpful.  Additionally, students are asked to read a novel and they may have reading control exams once in a while. The idea of summarizing the content of a book chapter in a word cloud seemed appealing to me.