Using Visual Thesaurus by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Dec 10th, 2013

ThesaurusTeachers love words – or at least all of you who are reading this week’s tips love words!   Given that we love words – and all kinds of learning – here’s a tool for exploring words and expanding your learning (and the learning of your students):  Visual Thesaurus.

I have been an aficionado for at least 5 – 6 years. I use this tool every day and have given it as a gift to MANY of my friends and to young people graduating from high school. Here are my top ten tips for increasing your productivity with Visual Thesaurus.

  1. Own it. You can purchase it for on-line use (and pay a yearly fee of $19.95) or you can purchase it as a resident copy for your laptop or desktop (and the cost is $39.95).  I buy the on-line version every year and purchased the CD so that I would have it on my laptop, regardless of whether I was connected to the internet.  As an educator, you can get a discount.
  2. Test out a trial version if you’re not sure.  Just go to Visual Thesaurus and you will see the option to test out a few words.  Pick some interesting words that you know you use in when you are  writing and see what options pop up for you.  You’ll see the words displayed in visual arrays (get it?…it’s a “visual” thesaurus) that show the relationships between among the various words.
  3. Use it by pulling arrays from Visual Thesarus into your PowerPoint® presentations or Word docs you are creating.  There aren’t directions shown anywhere about this, but I had a secret source within the company and this is what she shared (and it works).  Set up the array the way that you want it.  Then, click anywhere inside the array and press Ctrl + Shift and then left click and drag the array over to the document where you want it.  It doesn’t look like anything is happening but when you release the mouse button and the keys, it will open up as a graphic on your slide (or wherever you have dragged it).
  4. Use it to look up words that you are using (duh) but not necessarily to find alternatives in the typical way we think about using a thesaurus. Rather, see if the suggestions prompt some fresh thinking on your part regarding whatever it is that you are preparing to teach about.  This happens for me all the time and either gives me a fresh boost or helps me get “unstuck.”
  5. Use it when you are writing titles for conference presentations or workshops you are going to be teaching.  You want your titles to be informative and interesting and Visual Thesaurus helps you create such titles.
  6. Use it when you are writing letters of recommendation. When you are spending more time thinking of just the right word to describe a student than you are in actually writing the rest of the sentence or paragraph, well it’s time for help from the thesaurus.
  7. Keep it open all the time for easy access.  It is common for us to keep using the same words over and over and by having this tool already open and ready, we’re more likely to just quickly find an alternative to a word that is appearing far too often in our language.
  8. Use it to find words in various parts of speech.  Sometimes you might be teaching about something and you want to stay in the same vicinity in terms of meaning but you want to make your instruction even more compelling by using words that are a different part of speech (e.g., verbs rather than more adjectives).  Visual Thesaurus shows parts of speech and you can either turn off or on that feature, depending on what you’re working on.  Generally, I like having that displayed.
  9. Have it available in class so that you can explore words and concepts along with your students. Kids LOVE this tool.  And be aware that you can set it the language filters a little higher, if for example, you teach elementary school and would prefer not to have certain words appear in the VT’s array.
  10. Ask people to donate subscriptions to your school.  Many people want to help schools and one of the ways that they can is to help students expand their language capabilities. Visual Thesaurus is a tool that will help do just that.

Note:  Ask about the availability of this product in Spanish.  I know they were working on that and it may now be ready.

open_your_mind_v2-croppedAnd to help you generate those ideas for your next project you will want to access the teleseminar Proficient & Productive Use of Mindmapping Open Your Mind! which is available for immediate download and listening.