5 Creative Uses of Wordle for Teachers

Wordle is a very handy tool which allows you to convert chunks of text into attractive word clouds, a visualisation of the words used most frequently throughout the text. The larger the text, the more commonly it was used. There are other alternatives to Wordle such as Tagxedo or Tagul. (for a list of alternatives, click here)

There are lots of ways to use word cloud generators such as  Wordle in the classroom, here’s just a selection:

1. Guess the story
Novels that are out of copyright can be freely downloaded from the Project Gutenberg website. It’s then possible to cut and paste chunks of text -maybe the opening chapter – into Wordle. Could make a good starter or revision activity.

For example try and guess what book this Wordle is from:

Guess the Story : War of the Worlds by HG WellsMouseover it to get the answer in the ALT text.

You could also use this to look at famous speeches from plays. Here are some great summaries of Shakespeare sonnets converted into Wordles.

2. Analyse student writing

Students can take essays that they have written and copy/paste the text into Wordle. They can see if they overuse certain words like Nice or Good. This could help with self-evaluation. For example here’s a Wordle from an essay I had to write for a Masters module recently. No prized for guesing what it was about :)

3. Turn essays into posters

In a similar way to 2, essays or student work could be converted into Wordles and displayed in the classroom. Play around with the colour settings and font to produce something quite striking for displays.

4. Analyse famous speeches

Wordle can be used to analyse speeches from historical figures. Words that are repeated often will be bigger so it’s possible to get an idea of the important words from that speech.

For example here’s a wordle of Obamas Inaugural Speech:

And to compare, here’s George W Bush’s Inaugural Speech in 2001:

5. Summarise survey data

If you run a class / school survey, you can create a summary of the responses by typing them into Wordle. Even better, if you use Google Docs as a way of collecting the survey data online it can be copied/pasted straight into Wordle. From this survey of my blog users I can see easily that there are more Smartboard than Promethean users….

This is just a few ideas for ways to use word clouds – there are many more. For more ideas – check out this presentation from Ideas to Inspire which is currently totalling 51 excellent ideas.

If you have more – please add them in the comments!

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Author: Danny Nicholson

Danny is an author, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, PGCE lecturer and computing / interactive whiteboard trainer. He has delivered training courses across the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. Please get in touch with your training requests.

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