Wordle: Word Cloud Creator, K-12

A word cloud is a visual depiction of a set of related words. The clouds use font sizes and other visual clues to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Wordle is a free Web 2.0 tool for generating “word clouds” from text or del.icio.us tags that users provide. Users can create artwork from words, and use the built in properties to identify key words within a written passage and analyze content. Users can tweak their clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images created with Wordle are the creators to use however they like. Wordles can be printed or saved to the Wordle gallery to share with students, parents, or friends. Just copy text in any language, paste it into Wordle and it will sift through it and create clouds with the most commonly occurring words in the text. You can then edit the shape, the colors and the font, and remove words. Listed below are several examples of how teachers are using Wordle in the classroom. Read this article in Tech For Learning on how it supports instruction. Click here to see the text of this article in a word cloud.

H.S. English
Dawn Hogue, author of the Polliwog Journal blog, shared this high school English idea.
Before reading a word of the book, I pasted the first paragraph of the story A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez into Wordle. I then handed the Wordle out (nothing more, not even the title) to the class before reading and had students work in groups to answer the following questions:

  • What is the story going to be about?
  • Who might the main characters be?
  • What will the setting be like?
  • What is the tone of the story?
  • What words might we need to define?
  • What questions do you have about anything so far?
  • Whatever else you can think of . . .
  • The groups could save their predictions and revisit them in their writing journals during and after reading.
She also uses Wordle for test corrections. Students type in the questions and answers that were missed on a test. They then color-schemed the words to their individual talents. It is a fun way to "jazz" up the dreary task of test review.

H.S. Science
Below is a high school science example from the Technology and Education Blog, Box of Tricks:
Choose two online newspaper articles about the current topic being studied.
Copy and paste the articles into Wordle, creating two word clouds.
Print copies of the full articles for the entire class.
Print both word clouds on one piece of paper and make enough copies for the entire class.
Hand out the hard copies of the word clouds to pupils and ask them to fold their papers in half so every other pupil would be looking at a different word cloud.
Ask students to look at the word cloud, and using a dictionary, try to ascertain the purpose of the original articles.
Ask one half of the class to explain to the other half what they thought their article was about while the teacher displays each word cloud on the interactive whiteboard. The teacher can highlight words one at a time and extract relevant /useful vocabulary.
Finally, hand out copies of the original articles in full to the students and discuss the vocabulary further.

Wordle is used for a discussion on bullying. The students each create a list of words that describe a "friend" and a list that describes a "bully". Then take all of their words and create a "friend" Wordle and a "bully" Wordle. Make a classroom poster that had each Wordle on it and in big text had the question "Which one are You?". Post it on the classroom door so when they leave the classroom, they see this question.

GuessTheWordle Wiki created by Jen Wagner
Every day a new Wordle is posted for teachers and your students to view. Each wordle has a TOPIC. Students need to use their sleuthing skills to figure out exactly what that topic is. They must be careful though, some have more than one thing in common. Teachers and students can also create their own Wordle puzzles using this wiki.

There is also a good Slideshare presentation from the Ideas To Inspire website; Forty Interesting Ways To Use Wordle in the Classroom, that gives some more great examples.