‘How I love using Word Clouds with my students’

Wordle and Tagxedo are currently two of the most popular Web 2.0 tools. They turn the text of your choice (poems, lyrics, your tweets, news articles e.t.c) into visually wonderful word clouds in an instant! Both of them are free, easy- to –use and don’t require a user’s account. You can toy with different colours, shapes, fonts, orientation and themes to create your own word cloud. In this post, I’d like to share the way I love using them with my language learners!

Discovering and reading famous quotes is something I particularly enjoy when surfing the Net! For me, this kind of ‘concentrated wisdom’ eloquently expressed by eminent, successful people is inspiring to say the least!

Thus, I decided to use famous quotations as excellent thought- provokers and the springboard for further discussion and writing assignments in class too! Here is the procedure you can follow if you wish to try the same:

  • Collect quotes relevant to your student’s interests& create a Power Point presentation (you can download the one I used for free from the flash widget in the right hand column of the blog).
  • Write the words of each quote on separate post-it notes. (Alternatively you can print the quotes out and cut the sheet into strips- one or two words per strip according to the level of students& length of quote.)
  • Give each pair of students a different quotation.
  • Students must arrange post-its in a logical order to reassemble the quotation.
  • Pairs then discuss their quotation for five minutes.
  • Each pair writes a short summary of their discussion including their reactions and feelings about the quote.
  • In the meantime, write the names of the chosen public figures on the board. Ask students to guess& match the public figure to their quote. ‘Who said it?’
  • Your PP presentation will reveal the correct answers!
  • Students create a Tagxedo or Wordle out of their quote!
  • For homework you can have students ‘build’ their public figure’s profile by presenting 10 important life facts in class. If the quotes are contradictory enough, you can also ask more advanced learners to write a composition. Younger learners could memorize a quote for dictation.

Below you can see four Tagxedos my students created with great enthusiasm, based on different quotes:

Walt Disney: ‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them’.

Marilyn Monroe: ‘So keep your head high, keep your chin up and most importantly keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.’

Audrey Hepburn: ‘I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.’

Michael Jordan: ‘Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or walk around it.’

Albert Einstein: ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid.’

Wordle or Tagxedo??

The two tools have a lot in common. However, I am a bigger fan of Tagxedo due to some features Wordle doesn’t possess:

  1. You can upload and use your own pictures to be used as a template!
  2. Your images can be saved in different sizes as jpg or png files. Saving your image in Wordle is more time-consuming& complex since you have to use print screen and then crop the image to get your word cloud.
  3. I love the gallery of selected shapes (hearts, stars, animals, symbols).
  4. Apart from blogs and wikis, tagxedos can be embedded into Facebook& Twitter.

For more ideas on how to use Worlde& Tagxedo have a look at the following links:

http://bit.ly/aiJ8iU

http://bit.ly/bhhQ3M

Quotes make learners think while technology helps them be creative& enjoy the learning process more! Isn’t this the combination we look for :-)?? Have fun using word clouds too!!!

 All the best,

Christina

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