Visualizing Words with Wordle

Word cloud of my blog feed.

Word cloud of my blog feed.

Word clouds and tag clouds are a popular way to visualize words.  The larger the word, the more frequently they appear in a given text.  Wordle makes creating a word cloud simple: Just paste some text into the Wordle interface (or link an RSS feed) and the cloud is generated.  You can even tweak the color palette, font, and orientation of the words.

How can this be used by an ESL / EFL teacher?  I’m still working that out, but it seems like a word cloud must appeal to visual learners.  After pasting in a student’s writing passage, what can we learn?  If some words are very big, maybe she needs to expand the range of vocabulary used.  If very simple words are big, maybe her writing is too simple.  Did any words from the academic word list make it into the cloud?

Of course, other texts can also be analyzed this way.  Take a look at @iVenus‘s wordle based on program for the 2009 CALICO conference.  Gives you a pretty good snapshot of the conference, doesn’t it?

By stepping back and viewing this information visually, we can get an interesting snapshot of the overall text.  Why not turn your students loose and see how they use Wordle?


Filed under Inspiration

7 responses to “Visualizing Words with Wordle

  1. In addition to how Wordles can be used to teach ESL, have you considered how they can be used to display research data? I used them to visualize the demographic data of my participants in my presentation at CALICO 2009:

    • Great suggestion. Wordles are a really simple way to display what can sometimes be some fairly complex data. I haven’t used them in my classroom yet, but I’m curious about how they can be used and how students react to them. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Pingback: 169 Interesting Ways to Use Technology « ESL Technology

  3. I think Wordle is great! Check out my post “Build Literacy Skills with Wordle”

  4. Yasmeen

    Good resources on your blog. I am always interested in the newest technology, so I will bookmark this site.
    I think Wordle is great! It’s an interesting way to visualize language. I have used it with my Grade 10 (15 years old) ESL class in teaching parts of speech. I was very pleased with the outcome. Students were all involved in the activity. They were really thinking and they succeeded.

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