Tag Archives: word clouds

Reconstructing texts with word clouds

A few days ago I watched a recording of an Adobe Connect (video conferencing) session on using Wordle to create word clouds for use in the classroom. It was run by David Dodgson and contained not only a really useful introduction to using the application and other word cloud generators, but contained some terrific practical ideas for using Wordle in the classroom as a way of helping students to engage with topics and texts. I was particularly taken with the idea of using word clouds as a tool for helping students reconstruct texts, so thought I’d try out a similar task of my own at school using the same basic idea.

The theme of the lesson was volunteering, and I decided to use a word cloud as way of eliciting the topic of the class from the students  (pre-intermediate level 14 year-olds). I turned a short five-line Chinese proverb into a word-cloud using Wordle. It looked something like this:

The secret of happiness?I then asked the students to work in pairs and try to reconstruct the five lines of text, pointing out that the size of a word indicated the frequency with which it appeared in the text.

This is the original text:

If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap;
If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing;
If you want to be happy for a week, take a vacation;
If you want to be happy for a year, inherit a fortune;
If you want to be happy for a lifetime, help other people.

The students managed to complete the task without too many difficulties and there was even a certain amount of disagreement as to the correct pairings, which created some animated debate in the class.

All in all, using word clouds proved to be a great way of engaging students with the topic of the class and for helping them to focus on form as well.