Word cloud generators have gone the route of Kleenex and Saran Wrap, wherein people often use the name of the product to refer to the thing. Most folks I talk to refer to all word clouds as ‘wordles’, even though Wordle is just one of many, many tools that one can use to create word clouds.
Word clouds are fun. They speak to humans’ affinity for the visual. They can help you sort through important ideas and concepts quickly. They’re nice to look at. Why not use them in your classroom? While nice to look at is good, you’ll need to figure out what you can get out of a word cloud in your classroom. No, they don’t make great assessment tools, but there are plenty of other uses. We’ve collected a few of our favorites below. The list is absolutely not meant to be exhaustive! Do you have any favorite uses of word clouds in your classroom? Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below, mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter or leaving your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Have Your Students Get To Know Each Other
This is a great activity for the beginning of the year of to have your students get to know another class (either in your own school or across the globe). Each student can write about themselves: what they like, what they did over the summer, things they’re good at, things they’re interested in, etc. They can use the word clouds to give the ‘big picture’ of themselves to others, and easily see what everyone else is all about, too! Since it is the end of the school year, you could also use this as a close-out activity where students could write about things they’ve improved on, things they learned, and things they liked from the school year, or talk about what they’re planning on doing over the summer.
Help Students Understand Assessments
You can start with a rubric for this one, or have your students each make a list of what they understand the assessment criteria for a particular project to be. Put it all together and you’ve got a great visual of what you’ll be looking for when you’re grading their work. Have them use the word cloud while they are working, or have them look at their work (or a peer’s work) alongside the word cloud before handing it in.
Use As A Self-Assessment For Writing
Sometimes, students write a whole lot of words that say absolutely nothing. If your students never do this, then I think I know of a lot of teachers who are jealous. First, have them make a short list of what main ideas they’re trying to get across in their essay. Then, have them plug their essays into a word cloud generator and see what ideas come across as important (oft-mentioned). They can cross check the lists to see if the things they thought they were writing about actually made it into their writing.
Set Classroom and Interpersonal Expectations
Another great activity for the beginning of the school year, have your students each make a list of classroom rules and interpersonal expectations. Plug it all into a word cloud generator and you have a visual reminder of what is expected in your classroom each day. Feel free to pad the list yourself!
Take A Poll (and Analyze It!)
Poll your whole class on something (this could be as simple or as complex as you want it to be). Use the word cloud to show what the most popular and least popular answers are. If you want to analyze the results, a word cloud would be a good way to have students work with estimations – they can look at the size of the words and estimate percentage or number of responses based on the number of students in the class.