This blog post originally appeared in my first blog on Posterous and contains updated material. This work was inspired by Jim Smith’s INSET on Outstanding Lazy Teaching.
Word clouds have become a very popular resource in classrooms and are very easy to make as well as there are plenty of examples to grab off the internet. Although Wordle is the most popularly known word cloud creator, I have found http://www.tagxedo.com much better as it allows you to make word clouds in different shapes such as people’s faces. As a result, I have made word clouds from speeches in the shape of the person who made them as well as lyrics in the shape of the singer who sang the song and key words for a topic in shapes that relate to the topic.
The examples above show in the shape of Hitler his first speech as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and the second shape is in the shape of Wilfred Owen with the words from Dulce Et Decorum Est. These can be used in a variety of ways such as –
• Ask students to pick three words from the word cloud and explain their significance to what they have learnt in the lesson.
• Ask students to justify why some words are bigger than others in the word cloud.
• Ask students to create a sentence summarising what they have learned in the lesson using at least three words used in the word cloud.
However, the best use of word clouds can be for a main lesson activity rather than a starter or plenary and that is when students create their own word cloud. The stages of the activity can be as follows –
• Students already familiar with word clouds as they have been used in previous lessons.
• Get students to write 20 words that sum up a topic.
• With their 20 words, ask students to underline the four most important words in their opinion.
• Students then choose a person or object that best sums up that topic.
• Students then create their word clouds in their exercise book using their 20 chosen words with their 4 top words being the largest in the word cloud and using the chosen image or person as the shape of their word cloud.
The following examples of students creating their own word clouds are from my Year 10 group who were studying the Wall Street Crash.