Thursday, February 5, 2009

Word Clouds

Think about the text that you encounter in a typical day: the billboard you pass on your way to work, the newspaper headline you glance at, the advertisement that pops up when you check your email, and etcetera. The majority of text that we encounter in a day is not a part of sentences or even phrases. Most text that we read are a collection of key words from which we generate meaning. A new website came across my desktop that I think captures this fragmented form of literacy. The website is and it builds word clouds. Word clouds, also known as tag clouds, is a recent concept map that is composed entirely of keywords or tags with more prominent or important word being weighted heavier. The word cloud below is a created based upon my blog.
Wordle: blog
Considering the novelty of word clouds, the classroom uses of this text are still being discovered. Here are a few suggestions of ways that you can incorporate word clouds into your language class.

Reading texts
  • When reading information texts, one of the strategies that we teach students is to draw out keywords. The identification of keywords can help students establish context, identify writing conventions, makes connections, and develop a general understanding of the text. To use word clouds simply copy and paste text into the text box on and the site will generate a word cloud. I have done this with a speech by Barack Obama on the topic of race and the word cloud that it generated was a beautiful text that captures the new president's ideals and hope (see word cloud below).
  • Another idea is to have the students respond to the word clouds as texts. Create or find a word cloud and have students discuss it. Students will be able to explore the text's tone, topics, and voice. In addition, students can creatively make meaning from these texts.
Writing Texts
  • Word clouds can also be used to help students write. Create or find an imaginative word cloud and have students write a story inspired by the word cloud. This is incredibly effective as you'll see when you explore because you'll be inspired to write.
  • Most contemporary English Language curriculums require students to create media texts. A word cloud is a unique and aesthetic text that students can compose to express complex ideas and thoughts.
Wordle: Obama Race Speech

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