Ways to use Wordle

A couple of months ago, my network of teachers went a little bit nuts over a new web2.0 application called Wordle. I blogged about it, as did many others. Andrew made me want to revisit Wordle by asking the following question on Twitter:

So, educators, I am interested to know how you have used Wordle in your classrooms or as part of your work. I must favour visual learning, as I find visualisation tools such as Wordle, as well as SearchMe, Search Cube, Tag Galaxy and Many Eyes very useful. If they suit me as a learner, they must suit some of my students as well.

I’ll acknowledge the flipside of my argument and point you to Dy/Dan’s post on Wordle as nothing more than eye-candy and time-filler. Maybe it is no more than engagement-on-the-cheap, but if it works, why discount it? You can decide for yourself.

Here are some ways that I have utilised Wordle:

For curriculum planning

My team of year 8 English teachers were working to link assessment of our unit on persuasive writing to the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. Here is a Wordle of the VELS for Writing at level 5

For data analysis

As part of our review and planning process, we decided to survey staff about the year 8 program. The survey was conducted using Google Docs, and I set it up to ask a range of closed and open-ended responses. I fed the verbatim responses to the qualitative questions into Wordle to generate a picture of common ideas. This one was “What can be done to improve curriculum at year 8?”

For student reflection

I asked my students to think about the concepts, texts and ideas they had learnt about in English during semester one. I asked them to type this into word, and to type each word more often if they thought it was a main or important topic. When they pasted this into Wordle, this gave me a picture of what stood out to them in their learning. Demon2Diva posted hers on her blog.

For discussing a text in English

Novels that are out of copyright can be freely downloaded from Project Gutenberg. Anyone can then cut and paste an entire novel into Wordle, which will produce a visualisation of the words used most frequently throughout the text. I have reformatted the Wordle on George Orwell’s 1984:

For students to edit their own writing

Students can cut and paste a draft of their own creative or other writing into Wordle as a means of visualising whether they are over-using certain words or phrases. This might help them avoid cliches and search for new vocabulary to express their ideas.

For study summaries

Most commercial textbooks now come with a CD-Rom, many of which include an electronic version of the text. My husband, who is a chemistry teacher, suggested that his students could cut and paste an entire chapter, on say, chromatography, and produce a study summary Wordle. Words used most frequently would appear the largest, students would then know these are ones they should know about.

I used this technique with students to revise their VCE English text ‘In the Lake of the Woods’. Because they didn’t have an electronic version, they had to generate the word list themselves, which was a useful revision exercise in itself (defining which characters were more relatively important than others and so forth). This is one of their study summaries:

For learning a language

This idea generated from a discussion with a LOTE – Japanese teacher at my school. Currently, Wordle doesn’t seem to be multi-lingual, in that it does not render Japanese (or other language) characters. However, it could be used to produce a list of verbs in the original language in a visually appealing format, or, you could produce a Wordle of vocabulary words in a language using the roman alphabet and turn it into a matching game. I’m no language expert, but here’s one I did on the days of the week in French:

For highlighting your skills

A friend was applying for a job and was asked in the Key Selection Criteria to refer to his ability to integrate ICT into the curriculum. He wrote about using web2.0 tools like Wordle, but the also cut and pasted his overall response to the Key Selection Criteria into Wordle as a visual accompaniment to his application. He got the job.

And if you’re still not convinced on Wordle, then check out Clay Burell’s post on Vocab-Profiler, or “Wordle with teeth’ as he described it.

For me it’s not so much about the pretty picture, but the thinking it facilitates. As acknowledged elsewhere, the quality of the output is directly proportional to the quality of the input, and the thinking doesn’t stop when you click ‘create’.

So how have you been using Wordle?

9 thoughts on “Ways to use Wordle

  1. Wow, I love the applications you have made for wordle. I still like the fact that it is a pretty picture as students love working with these tools more than straight text. (I find, anway) I am sure as time goes by there will be even more uses that it is put to. One of my year 8 lads whose English is not his strong point, decided to do a poster advertising the upcoming drugs information evening in our school, in wordle, rather than a straight MS Word display. Kids come up with some ingenuous ways of doing things.

  2. Nirvana this is such an excellent post! i am so blown away by the range of ideas. I have tried the text based one after your first post but this just deepens the possibilities of the tool so much more. Thanks ! How do you use Many Eyes ? It looks interesting but I am not sure how I would use it. All are great for visual learners though!

  3. Some great ideas here. As a language teacher I have used wordle a bit, but not as you suggested. In our class, we use the wordle to revise vocab – creating wordles (typing words you are uncertain of more to make them bigger) is a means to learning the vocab and using the wordle to play games (snap on the board) is very popular amongst the boys. Thanks for the other ideas!

  4. Well done on a brilliant post! I know I know, I’m a bit behind the times as I see you wrote this ages ago! I just shared it with Marg and Jeff too and they were both suitably impressed. I loved the links to the other visual search engines that you listed there. My mind is already ticking over with heaps and heaps of ways to use them next year.

  5. Good ideas for Wordle. I have used it with trainee teachers but itwould work equally well with any learner. I wordled the powerpoint presentation I was going to use with them and then gave them the Wordle. From this they grouped words together and then predicted what they thought the day would be about. We then compared this with the objectives for the day. As we went through the day they used the Wordle as a note-making sheet and made more links. It ended up looking a bit like a concept map.

  6. Great ideas for using wordle. I love the way more and more ideas keep being shared. Thanks for your excellent ideas. I especially like the wordle of the VELS (Writing at level 5)

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