Week 17: Word Cloud Generators

Word Clouds are fun ways to SHOW words. You provide the words, the word cloud generators creates the WOW. Generally speaking, the greater the frequency of the words entered, the larger the word will appear in the design. Most of these sites provide some ability to adjust or select the fonts, layouts, shapes, and colors used.

Wordle is the first word cloud generator I was aware of, and it's generally my first go-to site to create simple word clouds. The example (above) was super easy-peasy. I just copied text out of one of my blog posts, pasted it into Wordle and clicked create. What was this post about? Look for the biggest words in the word cloud. Those are the words that appeared most often in the text.

When you're finished, there's not much to do in Wordle. Your word cloud gets published in their gallery, but there's not an easy way to share it or save it. You can save it as a PDF (to print or email?) but I usually (okay, always) just take a screenshot of it and save it to use on my blog, on a newsletter, in an email, or wherever I might use an image!

The apple shaped word cloud below was created in Tagxedo. There are several shape options, as well as the usual font, colors, word orientations (horizontal, vertical, or all.) You can save your image as a jpg or png to use. Take a closer look at the words below. Recognize them? I copied and pasted the text from our district's Aspire 2022 Mission and Belief statements to create this word cloud.   

NOTE: Because of plug-in problems and issues, I was unable to use Wordle or Tagxedo in Google Chrome, but they both worked in Internet Explorer. It's a good reminder to try different browsers if you experience trouble with web-based tools!

Classroom Applications

  • Analyze Student Writing - have the students paste their own writing into a word cloud generator to see if the main idea is really the main idea (remember, the larger the word in a word cloud, the more frequently it appears in the text.)
  • Literacy in Science - see how 8th grade Science teacher uses Word Clouds in his class (1 minute video)
  • Compare Famous Speeches - paste in the text from two different Presidential Inauguration speeches and compare the two for common words and themes.
  • Parts of Speech - studying adjectives? Have every student submit a list of 5 adjectives (how about using an Excel Survey?), then copy/paste that list into Wordle. The words submitted most often will appear larger than the others!
  • Mission/Vision Statements - this works for classes, schools, and districts.
  • Biography or Character Descriptions - students can write a biographical sketch of an important figure in history or a character in a book, then create a word cloud from the text. Other students can try to guess the person or character.
  • Current Affairs Analysis - create a word cloud using the text from a new story. Ask students to determine what the story was about, where it took place, etc.
  • Thank you, Teacher! Hey administrators ... need an idea for a personalized gift? Give a copy of your staff list to your entire staff. Have each person write one or more words describing their coworkers. You can then create a wordle out of the responses for each person and present it to them at the beginning or end of the school year so they can see how their cohorts see them.
  • Create a Personalized Gift - students can create a word cloud of adjectives to describe their teacher, principal, parent, or anyone else. Print it and pop it in a fun frame, and you have a very meaningful gift.
  • 5 Ways to Use Word Clouds in the Classroom from Edudemic
  • Using Word Clouds in the Classroom (66 slides of ideas, SlideShare)
  • Word Clouds and 8 Ways to Use Them! from Teachbytes

More Word Cloud Generators

  • Wordle and Tagxedo are what I used to create the examples this week
  • Tagul - this site requires a login (free!), but it has lots of shapes, colors, and other features for customization
  • ABCYa Word Cloud - this one is similar to Wordle, but with easy-to-understand directions. It's recommended for 2nd-5th graders.
  • Tag Crowd - this is a very simple word cloud creator, with very few frills
  • Word it Out - another very simple word cloud creator

A Few Last Tips ...

  • Some of these generators allow you to sign in and therefore save your design to go back and edit later. Most do not. Before you copy/paste your text into the website, save it in a document just in case you need to go back later and make edits. (I've learned this the HARD WAY. More than once.)
  • If a word cloud generator gives you troubles in one browser, try another!
  • If you can't find a way to save the image directly from the site (like Wordle!), then take a screenshot of your word cloud and use it like you would any other image.

What do you think?

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