Class introductions using Wordle and word clouds

Note: You can find out more about Wordle here.

What is Wordle?

Wordle is a free, online tool which allows you to generate “word clouds” from text you paste in or type. Word clouds free individual words and phrases from their grammatical confinement in sentences, paragraphs and whole texts. Not only can they look very pretty, but they can also be an excellent and quick way to generate a variety of activities. I’ll describe one of these uses below, and you can find quite a few more in my post, Language Activities with Wordle and Word Clouds.

Lesson idea: class introductions using Wordle and word clouds

Levels: elementary to advanced.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: using word clouds to generate discussion and build rapport.
Skills: reading; writing; listening; speaking.
Language focus: grammar – textual cohesion; any other grammar and vocab points as they arise.

Preparation:

  • Go to the “create” page on Wordle. In the box immediately below the words “Paste in a bunch of text”, type in 6 or 7 sentences about you, then click on the “go” button. For example, I typed in the following for an intermediate class:

    Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon
    I grew~up in the small, British island of Jersey.
    I have two brothers, Andrew and Owen.
    My favourite food is moules~marinière.
    I used to run a theatre~company in Jersey.
    I’ve lived in London for~about~ten~years.
    I spent a year teaching~English in Coimbra, Portugal.
    I’ve been teaching~English since~2006.

    Notice I use tildes (~) to link words I want to keep together in my word cloud. Also notice I type my name in five times: this is because, standardly, words are displayed just once each in Wordle’s clouds; and the bigger the word appears, the more times it was repeated in your initial text.

    When you hit “go”, you should see something like the following:

    Wordle-me-2Reduced.jpg

  • Play around with the “Font”, “Layout” and “Color” menus to format your cloud; and perhaps change the “Remove numbers” and “Do not remove common words” options in the “Language” menu.
  • Print out enough copies of your word cloud for each pair of students.

Procedure:

  1. In class, put your students in pairs and explain that the words on this paper are all about you. Explain that the bigger a word is, the more times it is repeated, and elicit that large words might appear in more than one sentence. Elicit that no sentence contains your name. Then ask your students, in pairs, to try and recreate the sentences you wrote about yourself. After a few minutes, invite their suggestions and read out your sentences, perhaps encouraging questions where appropriate.
  2. Then ask your students to write six or seven sentences about themselves. You can monitor their language and perhaps help extend their vocabulary here. Ask your students to turn their sentences into a word cloud – preferably in the computer room, though they can also do this using a blank sheet of paper and maybe some different-coloured pens.
  3. When they are finished, collect the students’ word clouds and stick them around the classroom walls. In new pairs or singly, your students can then look at the different word clouds and write the name of the student they think created it underneath. Finally, go round the word clouds and find out who each one belongs to, eliciting more information from their creators and encouraging other students to ask further questions.
  4. Alternatively, when your students have finished creating their word clouds, ask them to find new partners and bring their clouds. Each student can then explain their clouds to their partner, who can ask questions and find out more information. Subsequently, each student can show the class their partner’s word cloud and introduce their partner to the whole group. You might then want to give some language feedback.

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