Before the lesson, I created a Google Form. Here were the directions: "As you discover character traits that the president needs to have, submit them on this form. Character traits need to be one word, or hyphenated words (e.g. risk-taker), but instead of using a hyphen you need to use a tilde (~) for Tagxedo to recognize it. Spaces are not allowed between words! Only submit one character trait at a time."
Here were the two questions on the Google Form: (1) Character Traits Necessary to Be President of the United States, and (2) First Name & Last Initial. I made both questions required so that students could not submit answers without a name. I then made sure to share my Google Form publicly, so my students could access it. (In our district, Google Docs can only be shared with those within our district, so I had to have all of my students sign into Google before starting the lesson.)
I started my instruction by showing them how to do a proper Google search. I chose to type in, "personality traits of presidents" and see what came up. The first few were actually pretty good! Then, I showed them how to evaluate the information from each website, rather than just regurgitate the information. Requirements were that they only posted traits that they agreed with and knew what the trait meant.
Next, I showed my students the importance of reporting character traits as a response to the prompt, "Our president should be...(honest)" or "Our president should be a good...(leader)" I showed them on our sample website how to make the trait fit the prompt (e.g. communication skills was changed to communicator). (We did not evaluate the effectiveness of websites today - I generally don't love those "answers" websites, but that's what we used as our sample today.) By using the same format, we were able to make the Tagxedo above. With Tagxedo, the more often a word is listed, the larger it will appear in the visual.
Next, I let my students independently research what others thought were important qualities presidents should have in order to be successful in their job. They wanted to add their own ideas, but this time I said no. I wanted them to focus on traits that they couldn't think of themselves (new learning). I think that this was a good idea because otherwise students would have spent a lot of time listing traits like "nice" and "smart" instead of what we got.
I projected the Google Form Spreadsheet on the board as answers were coming in. I edited the list live and gave additional feedback to the group when answers were received that were not formatted properly or were too complicated to be understood.
When I called "time", I copied and pasted the 200 words that we gathered and went to tagxedo.com on Safari. (Firefox needs to be started in 64-bit mode or something like that and doesn't work for me on this website.) I loaded the United States outline (I tried the Abe Lincoln one, but it didn't look as good.) and I pasted the words into it. After messing with the colors and fonts, I saved the image and posted it online for the kids to see. They were very proud of their work and they enjoyed reading the qualities everyone found out that a president should have.
Tomorrow, we will incorporate this activity into our own political campaigns. Half of my class is currently running for president of the United States in our mock election. They will try to focus on traits that they believe they have that would make them a good president as they make campaign slogans and advertising materials. The other half of the class has dropped out of the race or has been dropped by their political party and are now campaign managers for the other candidates. They will work as a team to make these materials as they prepare for the upcoming mock-primary. Wish us luck with this one!