Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting a Word in Edgewise: Wordle

Missed the Just One Hour workshop on Wordle? A recap:

Horizontal, vertical, or any-which-way, Wordle makes it fun to, well, get a word in edgewise—visually. Wordle is an easy web-based program at wordle.net that allows you to create a graphic representation of text. Because it quantifies text (the more often a word or phrase appears, the larger it is represented), it can be used to compile or summarize data.

Most important, students love it.

So, how can you use it to promote student thinking in your classroom? What kinds of text can you use?

21 Ways to Use Wordle
1. Visualize a brainstorm session
2. Compile data from classroom polls
3. Create a graphic autobiography
4. Guess the ___________________ (story, novel, event)
5. Write a headline for a current event
6. See similarities and differences
7. Identify criteria for ____________
8. Show class rules
9. Present spelling lists in various fonts
10. Examine student writing (Overused words? Important details missing?)
11. Study an author’s tone
12. Display your syllabus
13. Discover main ideas in text
14. Look for key ideas in important speeches
15. Draw inferences
16. Summarize
17. Show synonyms or antonyms
18. Make a custom illustration for a blog, story, essay, book report
19. Compare news stories for bias
20. Customize your word wall
21. Reflect on your thinking

On his blog Copy/Paste, Peter Pappas shares ways to use Wordle to promote literacy skills. Pappas suggests:

Defining skills
Before the dictionary comes out, give your students a new vocabulary word and ask them to brainstorm all the word they associate with it. Gather up all the brainstormed words for a Wordle. After the term has been formally defined, repeat the process and compare to the "pre-dictionary" Wordle.

Summarizing skills
As a pre-reading exercise, copy/paste text of reading into a Wordle and ask students to predict what the main ideas of the reading will be. Another pre-reading option: give them a Wordle of a non-fiction reading and ask them to use the Wordle to generate a title or headline before they see the real article. Post reading: ask them to reflect on the reading based on a prompt (for example, main idea, what you've learned, funniest element, etc). Then collect all their reflections into a Wordle.

Comparison skills
Give them two different accounts / essays on the same theme / event - let them compare the Wordles generated by each. Or you could generate Wordles for two different readings, then let student see if they can match the Wordle to its corresponding reading.

For GREAT Wordle ideas and tips created by teachers, see the collaborative project Tom Barrett and colleagues created as a PowerPoint slide show:

How to create your own Wordles for class (or, better, have your students create them)? Start here with a copy of our Just One Hour workshop handout, Then head to wordle.net.  It's really as easy as 1-2-3:  Click create, paste in any text, and click go.

A word of caution, it's addictive. In a good way. Have fun.


PS Just found this great post by Iowa teacher Becky Goerend with sample student work!

http://peterpappas.blogs.com/ (Twitter: edteck)
http://edte.ch/blog/ (Twitter: tombarrett)
http://mrsbmg.blogspot.com/ (Twitter: MrsBMG)

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