A word cloud is an attractive way of visualising a large chunk of text in a more pleasing way. It shows the most frequent words used throughout the text. The larger the text, the more commonly it was used. It’s a good way of seeing which words are used the most in any piece of writing.

Here are just a few ideas on how you could use Word clouds in the classroom:

  • Guess the book – works great when you have access to the text of famous books via sites such as Project Gutenberg.
  • Use to introduce a topic – pupils could guess what they will be learning about from a word cloud made of keywords.
  • Comparing different newspapers – look at the same story in a Broadsheet and a tabloid newspaper (website) and compare the wordle clouds produced – how do the words used differ?
  • Self-reflection on work – as Wordle makes a word larger the more frequently it is used, pupils will be able to see at a glance which words or phrases they are over-using. Are they using the word Nice or Good too often?
  • Use to analyse the content and gist a longer written text, especially with exam or higher level groups
  • To introduce new vocabulary or to memorise new vocabulary/vocabulary lists
  • Revision of key topics and vocabulary – pupils can create their own worldes or they can be given them to use
  • To give presentations without reading from a sheet and just using prompts
  • Encouraging creative writing from a selection of key words from a word cloud

Here are some more ideas for using word clouds in the classroom.

There are many different websites available that will let you create your own word clouds, here are 8 of them:

1. Wordle

Probably my favourite word cloud generator, and the one I tend to use most of the time. It doesn’t generate fancy shapes, but it works well at what it does. It does need Java to run, so I do sometimes hit problems on some school networks that are over-zealous on security.
http://www.wordle.net

Guess the Book

2. Tagxedo

Tagxedo is my second favourite, and the first place I try if Wordle is blocked in school. It also allows you to create fancy shaped clouds, so many teachers will prefer it over Wordle for that reason. Tagxedo can even export as a file good enough to print on a tshirt.

http://www.tagxedo.com

3. ABCya

ABCya is a simplified word cloud maker aimed at younger students. Infant teachers might want to take a look at this for use with their classes.

http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm

4. Tagul

Like Tagxedo, Tagul lets you create word clouds in various different shapes. It’s very simple to use.

http://tagul.com/

5. Tagcrowd

Tagcrowd is more like wordle in that you can’t choose the shapes, but it works quite well.

http://tagcrowd.com/

6. Worditout

Another simple wordcloud generator, like Wordle and Tagcrowd you can’t choose the shape.

http://worditout.com/

7. Word Mosaic

Word Mosaic lets you choose the shape of the world cloud from a small variety of shapes.

http://www.imagechef.com/ic/word_mosaic/

8. Wordsift

This is slightly different to the others in that the word cloud produced is pretty basic. But it does have the additional feature of linking each word to a visual thesaurus. Click on the word to get it’s meaning, and see how it is linked to other words.

http://wordsift.com/

So what’s your favourite word cloud maker? Or what’s your favourite use of a word cloud? Share them in the comments below!

If you’d like CPD on this, or other great ways to use educational technology, then please get in touch!