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?