There are many possibilities for using word clouds in language courses. I've listed around 35 of them here with a few hints on what to do.
- preview a presentation or a text
- preview the current day’s lesson plan
- predict the content of a text e.g. topics, style, purpose, intended audience
- predict the content of a novel e.g. plot lines, characters, genre or themes as group work
- complete reading comprehension questions just from a word cloud, then comparing answers after reading the actual text
- summarise a presentation
- turn a text into a picture (essay, report, paragraph, article, etc.)
- identify the key words in a text based on their size in the word cloud
- expanding vocabulary (definitions, synonyms, antonyms, or brainstorm words associated with a new one, match parts of collocations)
- student-created flashcards of essential words (review, circle unknown, learn)
- discussion starter (student chooses one word from cloud to speak about)
- add to printed or online course materials
- use as a background for slides or online materials
- compare student responses (make one cloud, or separate ones to compare)
- explore a topic (students add own ideas to a question stimulus & build a cloud)
- take a quick class poll or track a poll over time (multiple clouds side-by-side)
- introduce new course, syllabus or module (provides an overview of content)
- introduce course objectives
- student ice-breaker e.g. all input hobbies, interests, future aspirations, family, pets, favourite films or books, country of origin, etc.
- highlight the main areas to focus on from rubrics to gain the best grades
- highlight examples of misspelled or overused words in student writing by inputting their own work
- illustrate contrasting ideas (show two clouds side-by-side), such as opposing arguments in essays or articles
- research texts from multiple sources then combine them into a cloud
- ‘find the words’ game (e.g. mix academic & non-academic in a cloud & identify)
- ‘guess the topic’ game, or combine two topics in one cloud and students separate them out
- ‘grammar game’ e.g. students classify words from a cloud into different parts of speech or different tenses
- ‘sentence structure’ game e.g. input a complex sentence or short series of sentences into a word cloud, and have students reconstruct them in the correct word order
- ‘memory game’ e.g. show a word cloud, take it off the screen, students write as many words as they can recall
- identify parts of speech (students highlight or underline in different colours)
- visual analysis of qualitative data (e.g. convert a table to a picture)
- curriculum mapping across multiple subjects
- checking the balance between course content and course objectives
Here is a multiple-lesson design thanks to http://tborash.posterous.com/designing-lessons-using-wordle:
While not a flawless design, these six steps seemed paramount in increasing students' desire to learn:
- Students pre-assessing their own knowledge and understanding - "What does _insert topic here_ mean to me?"
- Students using Wordle to analyze the pre-assessment responses
- Students "doing stuff" to experience _insert topic here_ in real life - "What happens when I do this?" (this is the learning phase)
- Students responding to what they now know and understand - "What does _insert topic here_ mean to me today?"
- Students comparing the Wordle of their current thinking to that of their pre-assessment responses
- Students asking the question, "Given what I first thought, and what I now think, what do I think of next?"
An excellent article by Simon Thomas on using word clouds in language activities can be found at: http://efl-resource.com/language-activities-with-wordle-and-word-clouds-2/. This includes links to several other resources as well.
- assists with motivation
- assists with thinking skills
- enlivens course content in all macro-skills
- appeals to visual learners
Places to Try:
http://abcya.com/word_clouds.htm (for young learners)
http://www.literature-map.com/ (more for readers of English lit.)
http://www.imagechef.com/ic/word_mosaic/ (has iOS & Android apps.)
http://quintura.com/ (has iOS app.)
http://tagul.com/ (each tag is linkable with a URL for navigation)
http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/ (also has visual thesaurus!)
http://www.wordle.net/ (very easy to use, MOST favoured by teachers)
http://wordsift.com/ (from Stanford University ELL)
The word cloud illustrated above was prepared by myself using Wordle.