Using Wordle and Word Clouds

It’s great that there are so many UK and US created resources that Irish schools can “borrow” to use to support our curriculum. In the last number of articles, we’ve seen how our younger children can be exposed to brilliant literacy lessons from Literactive and iBoard.

At the senior end of things, children can be exposed to a number of resources that probably weren’t originally designed with them in mind, but they make excellent literacy learning tools. These web sites are common for the Bebo/MySpace generation – essentially personalising text, graphics, etc. For example, a child can type in some words they wish to learn how to spell into a particular web site, and the words will come out all glittery and pink (if they wish). There are a number of these sites which make text more interesting to look at. However, most of them contain “teenage-oriented” advertising so they must be monitored before letting our little ones loose on them. A Google search for “Family friendly personalised text” might do the trick! However, as this is a very individual thing and not all children will like sparkly pink spellings, this kind of thing might not be suited to an Interactive Whiteboard.

What is brilliant for an Interactive Whiteboard (but probably equally good with just a projector) is Wordle.  For those of you who haven’t used Wordle, prepare to be amazed.  Like most really great ideas, Wordle is a very simple concept.  Grab some text, paste it into a box and Wordle makes a “word picture” out of it.  While that may not seem like such an amazing thing, think about other simple ideas – like Twitter – that have gone on to transform the way we communicate and share news.

Wordle can be used in loads of brilliant educational ways.  I’m going to show you an example of how we can use Wordle as a starter lesson on “Alice in Wonderland”.  After that I’ll show some screenshots of other Wordle ideas for the primary classroom.

Hopefully, you’re fairly impressed by this so far and you can see the educational benefits already.  Below is a screenshot of a Wordle with a recent news story.

From the bigger words, it’s fairly easy to see what this article was about.  Some schools copy the text from the front page of the newspaper, (e.g. the Irish Independent or the Irish Times), and make a Wordle from it.  When the children come into school, they look at the Wordle and jot down some notes about what they think the Wordle is about or simply have a discussion about the news of the day using the Wordle as a stimulus.

How else can we use Wordle?  Here’s a Wordle of a story that an inexperienced writer wrote about his day in school.  We haven’t removed common words so check the image below and see what the child might be able to learn the next time he drafts his story.

It’s easy enough to tell what word this child was using too much!

How about lists of words for phonics.  Below is list of words ending in “tion”.

Or how about some grammar on homophones?  This is great for an interactive whiteboard as children can match the homophones using the  pen tool.

And it doesn’t have to be limited to English.  Here’s a nice Wordle of Irish words.  Just be aware that some of Wordle’s fonts don’t show fadas.

Away from literacy a bit, but here’s a Wordle of children’s favourite football teams.  Children typed in their top three teams and created the Wordle.  The bigger the word, the more popular the team.  Notice that “two word” teams like Man Utd or Aston Villa get treated as separate words.

There’s loads of other ways a Wordle can be used and this proved very popular with participants on the course.  If you’ve any further ideas yourself, why not add them by commenting below?  Include an URL if you can too.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, check out this web site that shows 45 ways to use Wordle in the Classroom!

Last Update: Aug 9, 2017  

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