We were introduced to Wordle via iLearnTechnology (well worth a look). Wordle, if you haven’t come across it, is a free online tool for generating word clouds. And a word cloud, if you haven’t come across it either, is one of these…
It’s the kind of technique we used in our word problem resources recently. It seems to us to be just crying out for use in the classroom, so here are five ways to Wordle (over the course of the article, we’ll show you how use it too).
Go to the Wordle website (www.wordle.net) and click on ‘Create’. The word clouds are generated by taking text that a user has typed or pasted into the large box, or from blog feeds.
For an original way to brainstorm a topic in a thinking skills activity, get your pupils to type in words into the box. For example, typing alternative words for ‘said’ results in something like this…
…which, we’re sure you agree is quite effective.
One of the clever things about Wordle is that if you paste into the box a large chunk of text, it will get rid of all the common English words and give greater prominence to the words that occur most often in the text…
This can be a great way of spotting the themes in a piece of text. Look how the theme of Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech can be spotted straight away…
When the word cloud has been generated, you will see a collection of grey tabs above it.
These tabs allow you to control the look of your Wordle by altering settings for Language, Font, Layout and Colour.
The best advice we can offer is to play with these… Try altering some of the settings and see how you can personalise the look of your Wordle. Here we have tried it with a series of words from a Science topic.
It is in the area of learning styles that Wordle seems most helpful. Which is going to help your visual learners? A standard topic key word list or one generated by Wordle?
Instead of clicking ‘Create’ from the Wordle homepage, instead go to ‘Advanced’. This lets you to give each word a numerical value. The point of this? To allow you to be specific in how each word is weighted, rather than typing it out repeatedly and hoping it comes out fine.
Imagine a data-handling exercise where your class have collected information on favourite flavours of crisp…
Using the data they’ve collected, all pupils have to do is go to this Advanced section of Wordle, type in the name of flavour followed by a colon and then the frequency (eg. Cheese & Onion:10 Prawn Cocktail:5 and so on)
Although you can’t tell the frequencies from the above Wordle, you can garner some information about favourite crisp flavours and it certainly beats drawing a pie chart if you want a quick visual representation of the data.
There is one limitation with Wordle, however, and that is when it comes to printing out your word cloud… Clicking the print button results in a very small printout — too small to display in your classroom, anyway.
So, how can you get larger printouts? Thankfully, the folks behind Wordle have a very clear FAQ page which gives you a lot of freedom with what you do with it.
Here’s what we suggest… When you’ve got your Wordle looking just the way you want it, take a screenshot (in Windows: by pressing PRT SCRN, opening up an image editor and then pasting it in, or in MAC OS X: by pressing COMMAND+SHIFT+3 and saving the file to your desktop).
Wordles print out nicely up to just over A4 size and work brilliantly as screensavers and PC wallpapers… Let us know what creative classroom ideas you’ve come up with.
1. Although Wordle guarantee that their homepage will always be free from unsuitable content, their Gallery section is uncensored. Think twice before using it as a class activity.
2. To remove an unwanted word from your generated Wordle, simply right-click it.
3. To keep a block of text together (eg. ‘Welcome to Year 7′), simply put a ~ between each word (Welcome~to~Year~7).
UPDATE: Since writing this article, we have discovered Tagxedo — a similar tool that is worth taking a look at as it allows you to save your images.
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