Word clouds are great for use in the classroom. It is a visual display of a collection of words taken from the students, a text or a survey. I’ve seen some brilliant uses of these over the years, as it is a great way to provide a summary of data or even analyse text.
There are lots of different web tools (and iPad apps) which can be used to create word clouds, but I’m going to focus on just a few which I like using Tagul & AnswerGarden.
Here are some ideas of how these can be used to have an impact on learning in the classroom.
The reason I like Tagul is that there are so many options for customisation. Words can be imported from a website or blog post, added manually or copied and pasted in from a text or an excel document. In addition, you have full control over the size of words, colours, fonts, shapes and even animations. These can then be downloaded as an image, or embedded in a website.
I came across this site when looking for a way to poll attendees to a presentation I was giving. This creates a live word cloud online which changes as responses are received. What is great, is that it was designed with the classroom in mind: there is no need to sign-up, there are Brainstorm and Classroom modes included and a QR code is automatically generated to share with your students.
The output isn’t as pretty but can be really powerful if you are displaying on an overhead, so students (or attendees) can see answers rolling in live. As with most word cloud generators, the more a word is entered, the larger it is displayed.
For interesting ways to use word clouds, I would really recommend this slideshare by Vreed17
Here are a couple of ways that I have used Word Clouds with my learners:
At the beginning of any learning, it is so important to inform your planning by gaining an understanding of what your students already know. This can be achieved using Word Clouds which also provides an attractive output which we can reflect upon throughout and at the end of the unit. (This can be used in any area of the curriculum or for a Unit of Inquiry)
I distribute a link to an Excel Survey via QR Code (as blogged about here) and have the students write as many things as they can about the topic.
This method gets around the problem of many children trying to in put data into one source. They can all use their iPads to input their information. After the lesson I can copy and paste the answers from Excel online and paste it straight into Tagul.
Students are assigned a specific character from a guided reading. They should then choose 5 traits they associate with their character. They enter these into Tagul along with the characters name. Each trait is given a weighting from 5 to 1 and the characters name is given a weighting of 10. In ‘Layout’ they must choose ‘Word size from word table’ to create a visual representation of the character.
Here is an example for William, from Goodnight Mr Tom.
Getting to know you activity
Teachers often spend week 1 of term playing games to get to know their students and try to get a handle of where they are academically. If students do a piece of writing, All About Me, this can be turned into a word cloud.
Print off the word clouds and display around the classroom. Students can then play a game trying to guess whose word cloud is whose. This will allow students to get an idea of what is important to other students and also provide a way for students to share about themselves in a less daunting way than having their writing displayed in full around the class. It would also make a great display in the classroom, giving a sense of ownership to the students.
Here is mine from About the Teach Geek