Part of the Cool Sites series

Learning new vocabulary can be quite daunting for most students. We just have to look at the literacy rates to see how much children struggle with vocabulary. Rote learning of vocabulary does not really work. Experience has taught me students remember what they use and explore. Students need to have fun, engage with the material, and explore how their new knowledge works. Vocabulary lists are boring, but word clouds can be quite engaging. Therefore, I am sharing my favorite ways to help your students begin to explore new vocabulary through various word cloud tools, tips, and resources.

Wordle

Wordle is one of the best ways to engage learners if you know how to use it well. The following links will help you:

Alternatives

  • Tech Tools & Pedagogy– Word Clouds- Marisa Constantinides’ post includes a comparison chart that lists the options for each of the following word cloud tools and shows you visual examples of each.
  • WordSift- clouds like Wordle with more options to sort words by frequency and alphabetically. Not as visually pleasing.
  • Word Mosaic- great to make word clouds that fit a shape like a circle, exclamation mark, or heart. You can embed this. With Wordle you have to take a screenshot.
  • Word it Out- similar to Wordle. You can embed this, change the cloud shape, and differentiate the font colors. This tool is easy to customize, but still I prefer Wordle.
  • Tagul- make word clouds that fit a shape but each word becomes a link to a website.

A few more alternatives include:

  • ABC ya!- Visually pleasing like Wordle. You can choose different fonts and font colors. You have to edit your text, because this catches all common words and symbols. You can get the most common words in your text, however, by using Vocab Grabber. I found out about this program from The Book Chook.
  • Clusty Cloud Creator- Type in a topic and this generates a word cloud of its own. You do not get to choose the text, but the words are links to searches of the terms.
  • Alpha Works- An IBM Java program that is supposed to be just like Wordle. You have to register with IBM, then download this. I believe this only works with PCs, because it did not work on my Mac. Here are the instructions, because getting the program is quite complicated, but may be worth the hassle if it works like Wordle.
  • Tweet Cloud- make word clouds from your tweets or from topics and hashtags.

Resources

Tips

  • You can make phrases in Wordle by using the ~ to group words. Click here for an example of how I did this with the #PTChat question, Do~Kids~Get~Too~Much~Homework.
  • Make specific words larger by simply repeating them.
  • My favorite Wordle trick is to overlay a Wordle on an image. I found out how to do this through Tim Ryland’s post, Wordles of Character. Simply, have students open up PowerPoint then insert an image. Next, paste the screen shots they took of their Wordles. Open the Picture Palette tool box and select Set Transparent Color. Click on the solid background color of the Wordle. Finally, make the size adjustments.
  • Below is what all these combined tricks looked like in a recent Wordle I did for #PTChat.

Picture 4

Tagul Tips

I use Tagul when I want to have each of the words in a cloud lead to a link with more information or to have them in a specific shape such as a heart, star, rectangle, or regular cloud. If a student has written a research paper, this may be a fun way to have them provide the links of several websites they discovered that lead to more information on a topic. You can also use this as a tag cloud for your blog like I did below. Go ahead click on any word and it will lead to one of my posts!

Two ways to customize links:

  • By default, Tagul will have the clickable links lead to Google search results of each word. In order to customize the links to go to a specific blog, go to the Core Options tab and replace the Google search link with your blog’s search link and at the end add /$tag. For my blog the link I used was http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/?s=$tag. I got this link by clicking on my search this blog box on my sidebar and pressing enter. Do this for your blog to get the search box link. You also can eliminate tags under the tag tab.
  • You can also customize the link of each word to whatever website you choose. This takes a little more time since there are 300 different tags. You do this by clicking the API mode box in the Core Options category and playing with the code.

Challenge:

Don’t have students memorize word lists, instead have students use one of these tools or tips.

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Which of these tips or tools can you see your students using?