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Back to Wordle

Further to my previous posts about Wordle (here, here, and here), I discovered in Box of Tricks excellent uses of Wordle by different teachers. One teacher used Wordle for a pre-reading strategy, and made two wordles from two different newspaper articles on the theme they were studying. Each student, armed with dictionaries, had to guess the gist of one of the two, then explain to the other student what they thought the article was about. The teacher supplemented this with further vocabulary discussion, displaying the Wordle on the interactive whiteboard. Finally, students looked at the full-text articles. The teacher saw the value of Wordle, ‘not only as a text analysis tool, but also as a tool to elicit speaking and creative writing’.

A class of 5-7 year olds used Wordle as a visual voting tool. They brainstormed a list of words following an excursion, then voted on the ones they felt were most significant. The size of the most popular words was very obvious in the Wordle.

Wordle has been discovered to be useful in different areas of the curriculum, eg. Visual art, Maths (representing data), English (vocabulary and spelling), brainstorming a topic or theme as an introduction or reflection tool, and eLearning/ICT (presenting information).

Some excellent pedagogical reasons for using Wordle were raised:
– Wordle’s visual attractiveness can make a dull text analysis task more attractive, motivating students to complete the task;
– By capturing the gist of a text, it helps pupils focus on the vocabulary, register and grammar in a simple and engaging way;
– its electronic form enables it to be adapted to different media, eg. paper, blogs, interactive whiteboards, etc.

Nick Peachey, on his blog, outlined how Wordle is useful for language teachers:
Revision of texts: students could look at the Wordle and try to remember and reconstruct the text;
Students can make predictions based on the Wordle of the text they are about to study; they could check the meaning of vocabulary before reading the text;
a Wordle could be a prompt for reconstruction of a dialogue;
Students could examine a Wordle made from a short poem, and write a poem of their own from the Wordle, then compare their poem with the original;
A Wordle could be made from different text genres, and students could guess the genre and give reasons for their decision;
Wordles could be made from different poems, and students could guess the poet from the Wordle;
Students could make Wordles from a text they write introducing themselves to the class; these could be displayed, and students could try to guess the person from the Wordle; or they could exchange Wordles and use them to introduce each other;
A research topic could be introduced by a Wordle, and students’ pre-knowledge could be tested by asking how they think the word is related to the topic; after further research is carried out, the Wordle could be used as a prompt for an oral presentation;
Wordles based on topics to be studied could be displayed at home for revision of vocabulary;

Above all, most teachers really appreciated the simplicity and versatility of Wordle. I’m amazed at the number of pedagogical uses people have discovered for this simple, attractive tool.

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Very much like Wordle, another tag cloud application: TagCrowd

Just when you thought that Wordle was the be-all-and-end-all of the word tag cloud, along comes TagCrowd.com The tag cloud above is generated using Senator John McCain’s statement regarding the continuing Wall Street saga and the US government’s $85 billion bailout of AIG. The result is a handy visualisation of the most frequently used words in the speech. These word visualisations were found on The Online NewsHour in a post entitled ‘McCain pushes regulation, Obama blames failed economic philosophy in AIG statements.’

Here is Barack Obama’s reaction in a word cloud:

How is Tagcrowd different from Wordle? Both applications require the user to enter text, url or file for cloud generation. But whereas with Wordle, fonts, layouts and colour schemes can be tweaked, TagCrowd has more options for greater manipulation. The user has control of things, such as setting a maximum number of words to show in the cloud, setting a minimum frequency (not showing infrequent words), showing frequencies or not (word count next to word), ignoring words from a stoplist (ie. customised list of words to be removed), grouping similar words (eg. learned, learns, learning), ignoring common English words (eg. and, of, me), and other options. TagCrowd also allows the user to print a full-screen version of the tag cloud.

TagCrowd is more specific about the possible uses of the tag cloud:
‘When we look at a text cloud, we see not only an informative, beautiful image that communicates much in a single glance, we see a whole new perspective on text.’

There are some good suggestions for TagCrowd’s applications: topic summaries for speeches and text; a blog tool or website analysis for search engine optimisation; visual analysis of survey data; help for writers and students in reflecting on their work; and others.

I put in my blog url, and the result seems to have captured the front page:

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