Activity: Make a Word Web

Abstract ideas are hard to picture, and even harder to draw.  A word web gives participants a way to turn abstract ideas into concrete images, allowing them to move from numbers to pictures that engage audiences. It also gives you concede visual symbols to later incorporate into a visual design. This activity also emphasizes the value of collaborate thinking.

What you need:

  • Big sheets of paper
  • lots of pens of different colors
  • sticky notes

How you do it:

Begin by spreading out large pieces of paper, each with an abstract concept written in the middle.  The concepts are usually from a data-driven story you are working with. Things like “poverty”, “injustice”, “happiness” are all good examples of abstract concepts that come from data-driven stories.

Break the participants into group of 5 or 6.  Each person should have a pen.  Each group should have one of the pieces of paper you just showed. Tell the participants they should start by drawing a line from the central word and writing another word that they associate with that one. Keep adding words connected to the first word or to the ones that other people add.

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Give the groups 6 minutes to brainstorm and write words. You can force them to do this in silence, so they are focused on the words written down and nothing else. Once the time is up, spend another two minutes having them only sketch tiny pictures for any of the words they can, on sticky notes that they put on the paper right next to the words.

Bring everyone back together, hang the sheets of paper on the wall, spend a few minutes letting everyone walk around looking at them.

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Inspirations:

This is adapted from an activity we learned from our friend, community muralist Tova Speter.

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