Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creating a Wordle lesson plan

One of the things that I have started doing with my students is having them create a Wordle visual based on a certain topic and then responding to an essay question with the Wordle. I think it is a good way to incorporate a little technology, visual learning, and writing all in one. I have included the directions I give to the students and a very general sample of a Holocaust wordle.

Holocaust Wordle Assignment
For this assignment you will be researching a topic related to the Holocaust. You will be using the Holocaust websites from the MCHE website. Once you have completed the research you need to create a list of the 15 most important ideas/actions associated with your topic. You will then use it to create a Wordle visual that demonstrates these ideas.

The link to Wordle:

How to make a Wordle:
Click on ‘Create your own’
Paste your list in where it says ‘paste in a bunch of text’ and paste or type in your list
Click ‘Go’

You may need to adjust your list several times to get your Wordle to look the way you want it to. Once you have completed your first Wordle you will follow the directions below for how to copy/paste it into Microsoft Word.

How to copy/paste the Wordles into Microsoft Word:
Once you have your final draft of your Wordle you need to click ‘Print screen’
Then open a Word document and paste it into Word
Double click on the image and then right click on the picture
Click on ‘Show picture toolbar’ and select the crop button
Crop out all of the excess stuff from your image

If you want a certain word to be more prominent than another word to represent its importance, then you should type it in more times. The more times the word appears, the larger it is in the Wordle visual. Also – if you want a set of words to be listed together (for example: many victim groups) then you should list them without a space when you type them in so that they will appear together in the Wordle (for example: manyvictimgroups).

I have included a sample below of a general Holocaust wordle so you will understand the assignment.

Sample Wordle:

Next Step: After creating each Wordle and pasting it into a Microsoft Word document, you will then write an explanation of your topic. The explanation should be a minimum of 10 sentences and based on your research.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why I do this...

Every so often I am asked some variation of the question about why I continue to study the Holocaust. People seem to assume because I am a member of the Isak Federman Holocaust Teaching Cadre at MCHE and because I take most any class offered by MCHE that, by now, I should already know everything about the Holocaust. As anyone who studies history can tell you, you may possibly get to know the general facts but its the understanding that takes time and is never really fully nor satisfactorily achieved. In addition how can you possibly know all there is to know about an event spanning many years involving millions of people in all kinds of roles across an entire continent.

So why do I continue to study the Holocaust? The question of why is always hard to explain. It almost sounds morbid and wrong to say I like studying the Holocaust. Millions of people were involved and each one has a different experience or viewpoint. The moment you think you understand even some small part another piece is revealed. Some have been able to tell their story while others never had the chance. There is still so much more to learn about. Even in recently rereading books such as Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, or in taking courses, I find something that helps further my knowledge and understanding.

Is it difficult sometimes to continue studying an event with such horrific consequences? Yes of course it is as you may well know. But the significance of the topic and the human stories, not just the horror but also those of hope, make it a topic that I plan on studying for years to come.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Using movie segments

With the time constraints placed on classroom teachers, any saved moments in preparation before the students is like gold. So, what if you could cut segments from DVDs and place them together in a constructive order, without having to fast forward or change discs? If you have the discs, I have the software. Thanks go out to Glenn Wiebe, at History Tech, for the ideas.

Here is what you will need: DVDs that you want to use segments from. It is imperative to own your own DVDs, as you can “rip” a copy, if you have purchased the original. To “rip” is to transfer the data from a disc (CD or DVD) to your computer’s hard drive. I recommend finding originals on Amazon. A lot of their used copies are perfectly good and are a super bargain. You will need a computer with a DVD player in it. That is just about any computer that is less than about five years old.

You will need specific software. I specifically recommend two from personal experience: Magic Ripper, available from the website This software will cost you a bit, but is worth it. Magic Ripper is only available for Windows based systems. If you are running a Mac, or just don’t want to pay the cost, the other option is Handbrake, available at This is a free download, and pretty simple to operate. Both programs will allow you to transfer the movie into a new format of your choice and save it on to a computer. From there, you can carry it on a jump drive, external hard drive, or other portable electronic device. Portability!!

Using either Windows Movie Maker (a free download) or iMovie (a part of iLife Suite that comes loaded on Macs, or is a cheap download), you can “trim” segments from the digital copies of your movies you have “ripped”. This is simple, and will take you no time at all to learn it. In Movie Maker, when you have segments you want in order, and are ready to use them, go to the file menu and click on “Publish Movie”. You can choose to create your finished project in a format playable on Windows based systems, or to put it on a DVD, playable in most players. I haven’t had enough experience playing with my new Mac to guide you through that, but Mac is fairly intuitive. You will need to use iDVD to create a finished DVD, similar to Movie Maker. Good luck, and if you have any questions, email me:

Ultimately, you can put together your most used segments from a series of different documentaries, movies, and videos. This is an incredible tool, and hopefully will allow you to condense your resources in one location. By having the video on the original disc, you have permission to make a digital copy for personal and educational purposes under Fair Use policies. Good luck.