21 February 2018

Word Clouds in the Classroom

Intro Copy

Fun came to my daughter’s 7th grade language arts class in the form of a cloud. A word cloud. It was a simple and fun project, but one that my daughter took seriously. The assignment: Using the site wordart.com, she was asked to create a word cloud that represented her. Her word cloud would consist of a shape, words, and colors, all of which she inputted into the site to create a unique image. This project was educational in three ways: as a tech project, as vocabulary development, and as a “who-am-I?” exercise. The results were beautiful. [Side note: She loved her word cloud so much that she decided to make 12 more, one for each family member for the holidays. They were a big hit.] The whole experience was a fantastic one, and I started wondering how other teachers use word clouds in the classroom. Well, I was in for a surprise! I found more than 100 ideas for educational uses of words clouds. This article gives ideas for ten word cloud activities and this article discusses more than 100 ways to use word clouds in the classroom! I even found teachers discussing word-cloud ideas in various blog and article comments sections. For example, in the comments section of a 2010 edition of the New York Times feature Teacher Q, a teacher named Paula shares her experience using word clouds with her students. I thought it was worth including here, so I excerpted her comment: "I have been using the website www.wordle.net. It has been so helpful as a pre-reading tool. Before I assign them a challenging paragraph on the board, I copy and paste the text onto the text box, and click submit, and voila, a beautiful word cloud. Then, referring to the word cloud, students choose the words that are likely to be the most significant: such as hydra, corruption, legislation. They explain the meanings of the words, then predict what the passage will be about. They correctly predicted it would involve corruption in the law, and that a hydra (snake) was somehow involved. It has worked well. Even before they read the passage, they had a very good idea of what it will be about! Before, tackling passages from Plato’s Republic was very intimidating; but word clouds make it much more accessible." Want to go straight to a word-cloud site and create your own? A lot of teachers seem to recommend wordle.net and wordart.com. But check out this article for nine more recommendations. Tip: Help students understand a Pro/Con Leading Issue in SIRS Discoverer by using a word cloud of vocabulary terms regarding the topic. For example, here's one created for the Homework leading issue: Happy creating!