A “Word Cloud” is a visual depiction or graphical representation of word frequency. Some Word Cloud tools (Wordle, for example) will look for the most frequently used words (or tags) and display them as a random pattern, with the more common words or tags appearing larger in the cloud.   Some word cloud apps let you adjust colors, fonts, shapes, while others focus more on the analysis of the text.

Educators are using word clouds in the classroom because of the many different and creative ways that they can be integrated within the curriculum.  Below, you will find a list of ideas how to use word clouds in the curriculum! (article by Jonathan Wylie – see more on http://www.brightbulb.com)

1. Personal Narratives: Write, or copy and paste, a personal narrative into Wordle. Students will be able to see what is important to their peers from the words that are produced from the Wordle word clouds. Compare the words that are used most often by boys, or girls, by age group, or by class/grade level. These Wordle lessons make great displays outside a classroom.

2. Famous Speeches: Enter the text of a famous historical speech into Wordle. Analyze the results by looking at the most commonly used words, or even the words that are not used. What does this tell us about the orator and their intentions? Go to http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/previous.htm or http://www.americanrhetoric.com/top100speechesall.html for a list of historical speeches you may want to get started with.

3. Create a Wordle Gift: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, or even Teacher Appreciation Day, can all be celebrated with Wordle. Input your favorite adjectives for your chosen person, generate the word cloud, and add it to a greeting card, poster, calendar, or whatever else you choose. Remember, Wordle clouds can be downloaded as JPEGS or PNGS if you take a screenshot of your word cloud and save it to your computer, (command+shift+4 on a Mac will give you the option of saving a selected portion of your screen).

4. Classroom Polls: Instead of your traditional bar graph or pictograph, try using Wordle to organize your data. What is the favorite color in your class? Have all students take turns at entering their favorite color in to Wordle and generate the resulting cloud. Bigger words = more popular colors. Repeat with ice cream flavors, pets, family members, etc.

5. Compare and Contrast: Use Wordle as a compare and contrast tool. Compare and contrast the word clouds of two or more students’ writing, famous speeches, song lyrics, news reports, book reviews or whatever else you may need to compare in your classroom studies.

6. Student Profiles: I have done this with PowerPoint before, but recently saw someone do the same with Wordle lessons. Have all students in your class write a few positive adjectives about each of their classmates anonymously. Compile all the papers, input the adjectives for each student into Wordle, and generate a student profile word cloud to give back to the student. Children always enjoy this positive feedback exercise, and it can be a great end of year activity to take home from the last day of school.

7. Current Affairs Analysis: Copy and paste a news story into Wordle. What could the story have been about? Can you guess what the headline would have been? Where could have it taken place? These questions and more make this a worthy discussion exercise.

8. Wordle Word Walls: Brighten up your word walls with Wordle lessons. Students can brainstorm synonyms, antonyms, or definitions for their list of vocabulary words. Add your word clouds to your existing word wall work to help stimulate those higher thinking skills in your students. Keep a tally of the targeted vocabulary words that the children use in speech on a daily basis, and them to a Wordle cloud to show which are used most often.

9. Unit Review/Preview Posters: Students can create KWL charts on what they would like to learn and find out about a given topic. Alternatively, create word clouds at the end of a unit to summarize the key learning points or vocabulary from a given topic.

10. Historical Document Analysis: Have you ever wondered what the Magna Carta or Declaration of Independence would look like when pasted into Wordle? Try it and see. There will be lots of talking points from the resulting word cloud. What do you predict you will see? What themes can you identify? How does the word cloud fit in with the historical context of the document?

Check out some of the more popular word cloud apps:  Each is different in their own way..
Word It Out:   http://worditout.com/
TagCloudGenerator:  http://www.tag-cloud.de/
VocabGrabber: http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber
Tagul:  http://tagul.com

… and here’s a link to a page with full descriptions: http://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/waiting-for-wordle-free-word-cloud-options-to-use-now/




  1. Marybeth said:


    What an informative piece to anchor examples of best uses of Word Clouds in Education! Well done.

  2. Robin Talkowski said:

    I have definitely bookmarked this post. It is a wonderful overview of the various tools that we can use for word clouds. I especially like the “STAR”. Thanks, Donna.

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