Wordle: Word Clouds

By Jeffrey Shoemaker

Wordle: Word Cloud

The coolest website that I have began to use with my middle school students is http://www.wordle.net. This is a website that you can copy and paste a certain text into a field and then the website’s applet program creates a word cloud of the predominate words in the text. The words that are most frequent are larger and the words that are not used as often are smaller.
Wordle: U.S. Constitution
Below I have a Wordle of the United States Constitution. As you analyze this Wordle you can see some words stick out. For example, “President”, “States” and “United” are words that are predominate, and used the most. Words such as “Representatives” and “House” are not as large so these  aren’t used as often.
Wordle U.S. Constitution

So what could I get out of this Wordle to teach my students? If you are like me, I like to have conversations with my students about what they think, or their opinion about a topic. Normally they never disappoint me when it comes to having conversations. Through this method, students can see the word “States” is large, which means there are many sentences with that word in it. The word “President” is also predominate, which means there are many sentences with this word in it. There is so much in this Wordle to talk about that you could probably talk for 5-10 minutes about what they think is important and why. Let them discuss what it means to have these two words so predominate. I am sure you will get many answers, which could be a great way to introduce the meaning of the U.S. Constitiution.

Wordle: Compare and Contrast 

Another idea using a Wordle is to use it to compare and contrast to pieces of text. Below I have President Bush’s 2005 Inaugural Address and President Obama’s 2009 Inaugural Address. This is a great opportunity to see what some of the main issues were and are that surround the Addresses, and see what they have in common. There are so many possibilities with the use of comparing text that you and your class can talk about.



Wordle: Wrap Up

To close this blog, I thought how can I sum this up. I guess it goes back to the basics. You just have to try it. Go on-line, put in a text of something you are reading and create your Wordle. Become familiar with the website, then turn it loose on your students. Let them create a Wordle of something they wrote, or something they are reading on the web. Have your students discuss what the word cloud they created, and if anything surprised them. By integrating technology into our teaching, we are helping our students use the internet as a resource that can generate discussions. 

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