Friday, October 9, 2009

Why Wordle?

Cross Posted At The Tech & Learning Advsory Blog

At a recent workshop I was showing some teachers what a Wordle was. I used one I created from my blog as an example.

We talked a little about how easy the program was to use (for teachers and students) and how they would explain what the image showed when they created some with their kids. But there was one question that caught me a little off guard. Why would I use this in my class? I tried to give the teacher as many examples as I could (summarizing text, survey results, etc) but she still couldn't wrap her mind around it. I wanted to hear from other classroom teachers and have them tell me what they used it for, in the hopes that not only this teacher would understand but I would have an amazing list the next time I talk about Wordle. (And so would you!)

I did what any good educator does; I turned to my PLN on Twitter. I sent out a tweet:

If you had to explain to some one why use Wordle, what would you say? Use the hashtag #whywordle Thanks!

Within a matter of moments I had several great responses:

•@colport-I use it as an assessment activity at the end of a topic, alongside concept maps from all groups in a class.
•@aldtucker-It's COOL! Good visual representation of themes, versatile
•@kmadolf-Focus on key words, ideas, themes. Fun to play around with font, color, layout. Can use to check own work for repetition. (I liked this one. Students can enter, say an essy, into Wordle and see if they have any words that they have used too much.)
•@dpeter-Visual representation. Cognitive and Concept mapping. Makes the "difficult" manageable. Shows strength of words.
•@adzbutterworth-I use Wordle to summarize texts and as an interesting way to present my class with keywords.
•@FireWOW-We used it to examine our district's core beliefs. Very powerful to see which word(s) came up frequently/seldom (This was another idea that I think is amazing. Take your district/school/classroom mission/vision/rules to see what is over emphasized and what is lacking.)

But there were two that were really stuck out:

•@mrsmac75-As a starter for students to try and guess where we're going with our lesson and create their own learning outcomes.
•@ktenkely-I use Wordle as warm up. I hate the question, "What are we doing today." I give word clues about what we are doing in class.

That is so cool! Use Wordle to introduce students to a topic. So here is what you do. Lets say I am going to teach a lesson on the U.S. Constitution. I am going to gather all the text that I am using for my lesson, enter it into Wordle. To start my lesson I would show my students this:

Then as a class we would talk about the larger words (the words that appear most often in the text) and the no so large words (the words that do not appear as much).

The possibilities are endless really. There is a really great presentation from the Ideas To Inspire website; Thirty-Eight Interesting Ways To Use Wordle, that gives some more great examples.

Jen Wagner (@jenwagner) created a really cool site called Guess The Wordle. Each day she posts a Wordle and student (or classes) can guess what topic they think the wordle is related to. They get progressively harder throughout the week. What a great idea as a way to start the day off each morning!

How would you answer my teacher's question? What ways do you use Wordle in your classroom, or what ways have you seen others use it?


  1. This is just an awesome blog post! I love wordle but hadn't really applied it to the classroom. I think I will use this as we tear apart the Constitution here these next couple of weeks.

  2. Steven,

    I just used Wordle with my 6th graders and they LOVE it! They created Wordles to teach others about Internet Safety. While their first attempts are simple, I can see how this tool can help teach students about keywords and also give them a way to show what they've learned in an engaging way that does not require a huge amount of time. I am looking forward to using this tool throughout the year to check for understanding and vocabulary knowledge.

    Luckily, it's one of the few Web 2.0 tools that is not blocked by my district.

    I'm so glad that you were able to share this resources with other educators!

  3. I use it whenever I need to tap into my own creativity. Share it w/adults who ask about a Wordle picture in the binding side of a notebook and one I keep w/my daughter's picture. Just blogged about using it 10 days ago trying to narrow my own research topic ideas. Students think its cool that I struggle with writer's block too!

  4. Thanks- I've been trying to think about more interesting & authentic ways to use this. I teach literacy and I love the idea of inputting student essays to determine which words they use too many times.