Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Back to School Idea for Building Student Self-Concept- Adjective Silhouettes {Sparking Student Motivation}

Hey there!

I wanted to share a little project that I do at the beginning of the year.  I'm not sure how I came up with this idea...I honestly can't remember because I've done this every year for the last 4-5 years.  But, we have our curriculum night usually a week after school starts and that's really quick to have something out in the hall for a display.  So, this was a perfect solution!

Sorry for the blurry picture.  And for the fact they are hanging on a beige wall.  But the fire marshall will not allow us to use paper for our wall displays.  Don't even get me started on HIM.

These are our silhouettes.

The first week of school, I send home a half sheet of paper and ask parents to write AS MANY words as they can to describe their child.  I make sure to say that these words will be displayed in the hall and the more words they have, the more proud the student will be about their silhouettes!

This year was the first year that I used Tagxedo to make their word cloud.  Previously I had always used Wordle.

The issue I have with Wordle is that when you are sitting and typing all of those words, and then you create your word cloud and notice you may have misspelled a word or something isn't quite right with spacing, you can't just go back and fix it.  You have to retype all of the words.  So I had to remember to copy everything I had typed for each word cloud before I hit create and then if I had to correct something I'd have to go back and paste the words so I didn't have to retype it.  Anyway, it was a lot of thinking.

With Tagxedo, you don't have to do that.  If you make a mistake or need to add something, all of the words are right there.  So, that sold me.  Not to mention that Tagxedo makes actual shapes and the words are repeated over and over.  So, at first glance, it looks like each student has the same number of words.  But they don't.  Some only had five words while others had twenty.  But to make the shape, it repeats the words over and over.  In Wordle, if you only have five words, then you only have five words.  So, if your silhouette was next to someone's that had twenty words, you may feel a little sad about that.  So, that was another selling point.

So, once everyone returns their sheet, I type all of the words in.  Yes, it does take a bit of time, but it's totally worth it.  If a student doesn't return any words, I try to think of as many as I can for them.  But, with it being the first few days of school, that can be a little hard, so sometimes I do have to use generic words like kind and friendly.  I usually only have about one student each year that doesn't return it, so that's pretty doable.

So, if I'm lucky enough, I ask a parent volunteer to come in that first week and take about 30 minutes to pull kids into the hall and trace their silhouette while I'm teaching.  It's the one and only time I pull out my overhead!  ;O)  Students stand against the bare wall with the black paper taped there, the parent (or I) traces around their head using the light from the overhead to cast the shadow.  Done!

As a parent, I love this idea because as your children get older, there are no more handprint cards or poems that come home.  There is rarely anything that comes home that is completely personal to the child.  So, the parents really like this because they can keep it forever.  It's not a handprint but it's their child's silhouette from fourth grade!  It's sweet to look back on!

Once all of the words are printed, I cut them out and glue them onto the silhouette.  Then, I laminate them.  That's it!!  Simple and sweet!

The way that Wordle and Tagxedo work, the more you type the same word in the box, the bigger the word is.  So, I typed each word once but I typed their names at least three times, that way their name would stand out.  There are a lot of fun things you can do with the words.

If you've never used Tagxedo, and want to know more, I know there are some Youtube videos.  Or, if you'd like, I can create a tutorial for how I used Tagxedo.  I just didn't want to wear your patience here.  Just comment and let me know if you are interested in knowing how to use the website.  :O)  You may already know how!!

We are linking this up to our sweet friend Joanne for her Spark Student Motivation linky because I really think that every time they pass their silhouettes in the hall, it gives them a boost to see such wonderful words written about them.  And, I hope they will take them home and keep them where they can see them anytime they are feeling discouraged!  I usually send them home with the parents at our first parent-teacher conference (that way they aren't smushed in backpacks!!)

Be sure to go and check out all of the other wonderful motivators at Joanne's blog!!
Also, to spark motivation in you, be sure to go check out my friends Amelia and Diane because you MIGHT notice they are having a giveaway!!  You'll have to see it for yourself, but I guarantee it will spark some happiness in you!


Have a restful weekend!


  1. Great idea ladies! I'm thinking about using this with book characters.. interesting. Thanks for sparking my creativity!
    Enjoy your weekend!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  2. This is a great idea! I didn't realize you could edit in that program. I've always used Wordie...I think I need to make the switch too.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
    Find me on Facebook

  3. Love this so much!! Definitely pinning it for next year! Or maybe yet this year... ;)

    Fifth in the Middle

  4. The silhouettes turned out great! I am sure the parents really loved them. I have never used either program, but I can definitely see why you would want the editable one. Glad your school year is off to a good start!

    Eclectic Educating

  5. LOVE your silhouettes! I've only used Wordle, but you've totally sold me on Tagxedo! This project probably motivates parents to appreciate all the great things about their children too! Building community everywhere-fantastic!
    Thanks for sharing an awesome idea and linking up friend!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  6. What a cute idea! I love the owls :)

  7. I hate that about Wordle - especially when I am having my students use it and they forget capitals or make mistakes and hit create before I check it :(
    Thanks for the great idea and info on Tagxedo.

  8. These are ADORABLE! You must have the same Fire Marshall in Georgia that we have here in Florida! I have gotten into many disagreements with him. I just don't understand why the ceiling and the floor can't be included in the 20% of the room rule. One of us needs to create tags for Flame Resistant purposes for teachers! Lol!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  9. Great idea! I can't wait to try this with my kiddos. I share your frustration with mistakes in Wordle. I started having my kids type in Word then copy and paste in Wordle. If there is a mistake they can correct it in Word without retyping everything. Just thought I'd share.

    1. That is a good idea! I definitely hadn't thought of that! Thank you!!!


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