Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordle for Visual Analysis & Prediction

Wordle is a nifty little site that creates word clouds that can be used as an introductory "Do Now" or "Anticipatory Set" (using steps 1-5 below),  and later as a culminating activity and project (steps 6 & 7) using analytic thinking, prediction, collaboration, writing, and presentation skills that align with the Common Core Standards. This activity could be used for any age group.

The Process:

  1. Copy/paste the text of the story in Wordle to create the word cloud. Adjust the settings to create the desired effect.
  2. Project the Wordle for all students to see.
  3. Student individually write reactions/impressions of the wordle (5 mins) and create sentences using only the words presented in the Wordle.
  4. Students turn to their neighbor or work in groups and discuss the varying view points and create a group sentence (10 mins).
  5. Groups share their sentences with the class (5 mins) and make sure a copy is saved to access later.
  6. After studying the text, project the Wordle and the group sentences back on the board and discuss the accuracy of the Wordle and sentences (10-15 mins)
  7. In groups or individually, students could, as a final project, create their own word cloud of the text (or keywords from the text) focusing this time on the size and placement of the words in relationship to how the words are connected to each other in the story. Instead of a random Wordle, students would create an intentional word cloud. Students would also include a written rationale or present their word cloud and rationale to the class.

Here is a sample Wordle based on the short story, "Priscilla and the Wimps" by Richard Peck. I start the year off with this story because I can introduce all skills needed for being successful in the class, scaffold it with other short stories taught, and align with NJ's Week of Respect that targets bullying prevention. This story is excellent for 9th graders who are just entering high school because, while it seems simple to understand, there is actually a complexity in the motif and theme of the story and a focus on conflict resolution.  Peck builds his entire story around the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and allows for discussion of reliable narrators and how to resolve conflicts (or not to resolve conflicts). Themes presented in Peck's story are also found in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"  --- two texts that challenge the students' comprehension and analysis skills.

Later in the year, I can use Wordles to facilitate in student understanding when we study poetry with Pygmalion and Shakespeare's sonnets and Romeo and Juliet in the 4th Marking Period. Students get discouraged when struggling with the language, but if the text is presented in a visually appealing word cloud that only uses the most frequently used words (and not all those thee's and thou's), they should gain an initial understanding of the poem's or soliloquy's themes and motifs.

This is a Wordle of Eliza Doolittle's final monologue to Professor Henry Higgins where she tries to explain her analysis of their relationship. Students can view this Wordle prior to reading George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, and complete the process above. Based on this Wordle, we can see that this monologue (and thereby the play) is focused on answering the question, what does a girl want? Here's the answer...

While Wordle is describes as a "toy" on their site, this "toy" could be used to facilitate the use of higher level thinking, writing, collaboration, and presentation skills.


  1. Kate,
    What a great idea! I've used Wordle before for fun, but.... I will definitely be using it as an anticipation guide/anticipatory set.
    Thanks for sharing your great thoughts.
    Kelly Hansen

  2. Tagxedo is cool as well. Same concept, but you can arrange the words into different shapes.

  3. Tagxedo sounds very interesting! I will have to check it out! That is one of the things that I wish Wordle would do. Thanks for the tip!