1. Introduction of vocabulary
Copy and past the content of a website into the word cloud site and create! Once the word cloud is complete, students can begin by searching for cognates and words they know. I also encourage them to make educated guesses about words based on what they already know about the language. Students can share all the words with the class, and this becomes their vocabulary list. Once students have found these words (which usually ends up being WAY more than they could imagine), have them write a short summary of what they think the website might be about. For novice mid students, you may just have them write the most important words from the cloud. Now that you’ve activated some prior knowledge, students can read through the text and do various interpretive activities.
2. Info gap activities
There are a few different ways to do info gaps with word clouds. For my 3rd graders, I created a word cloud with adjectives and asked students to highlight the words that describe themselves. Once they did that, students paired up and asked each other about the various adjectives, highlighting with a different color on the word cloud. Students finished by creating a Venn Diagram to compare themselves with their friends. This could work with any set of vocabulary in terms of likes and dislikes.
In the 5th grade, I used word clouds to condense an “All About Me” page from a blog post. I created two clouds – one for each post. Students answered questions about their post based on the cloud and then partnered up to ask and answer questions based on their cloud.
Word clouds are also a great way to present information. They can be used to start the year as a way to introduce students to one another or at the end of the year to sum up the various vocabulary pieces the students learned. I find that providing a brainstorm document of some sort helps students organize their thoughts and put more information into the cloud.
4. Guess Who
A word cloud is a great way to play Guess Who? in class. Students create their cloud without their name and their classmates try to guess who it is. The other day, I had students move from cloud to cloud. Not only did they guess the name of the person, but also wrote palabras claves, key words that helped them determine to whom the cloud belonged. Some were obvious, such as the student obsessed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James, and others were much trickier as multiple students participate in the same activities.
There are various sites you can use to create your world cloud. Here are a few that I’ve used in the past:
-Wordle: This is one of the original sites and provides you the ability to change fonts, colors, and word direction. The more times you write a word, the larger it becomes. You can copy text from websites, song lyrics, etc. It requires flash, so it cannot be used on a iPad. It often asks for updates and seems to work best on Firefox rather than Chrome or Safari.
-Tagxedo: This site is similar to Wordle, but also allows you to create the word clouds in various shapes. It also requires a plugin, but once downloaded, works just fine. It also works best on Firefox or Safari.
-Tagul: My favorite of the three at this point, Tagul works on any browser and also on the iPads. It gives more freedom than the others in that colors, fonts, and word directions can be changed for individual words or the word cloud as a whole. Tagul does require a login, but if students have Google accounts through the school, they can use them here. The benefit of logging in, however, is that the site saves your work and you can return to it later.
How do you use word clouds in class?