Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Wordle Matters, Educationally Speaking

Wordle: A Wordle about Wordle
Wordle about Wordle
At first glance, Wordle feels cute. It IS cute and a little game-like, but months ago, Assistant Princiapal Angela Griffith showed me why it is a powerful educational tool. Since then, I've seen so many knowledgeable teachers use it in so many effective ways that I feel the need to share the glories of Wordle.

When you "Wordle" your text, the more times a word is used, the bigger it appears in the final product, so the largest words have the highest frequency. If you want to know what your résumé really says about you, Wordle it. You may
find out you've said you "coordinate" when what you really want is to "lead." If you want your students to see what their writing is really about, have them do the same. Jessica Powell, 7th grade language arts teacher, had her students Wordle their non-fiction essays about the AIDS epidemic in Africa with similarly revealing results.

First grade teacher Jean Curran tells me Wordle leads to "more writing." She says, "My students want to write more words when we use Wordle s
o that they can see them appear." If you haven't done much observing 7 year olds write, this might not seem significant, but ask a teacher of this age group how much it matters, and they'll tell you just getting kids to write is of utmost importance. It's the practice of forming words and making sentences that leads to fluency in writing. By the way, that remains true of any age group.

Today, second grade teacher Peggy Gusler introduced me to yet another use of Wordle. Her students watched a science video and while they viewed the film, they typed the key words into Wordle. The creative spelling of 2nd graders is very cute, but the products also show the kids were paying attention and noticing which words were important; again, an important skill at any age.

Finally, Wordle turns student writing into a sort of
shape poem. I know this is very English-teachery of me, but I can't help waxing a little teary-eyed at this story from my colleage Jessica Powell. She is a huge Moodle fan, and she often has her students embed their Wordles into discussion forums on Moodle. Not long ago right after she lost her grandpa, she was reading along and noticed a Wordle that was posted privately, just for "Coach P.," as her students call her. One of her students had created a Wordle about her mother's recent death. She could see that Coach P. had been grieving, and she wanted to share the feelings of loss she was also experiencing. Jessica said she cried viewing the student's work because it was such a heart-rending poem, unsolicited, unexpected, totally personal, and completely touching.

Wordle Options to Try:

-Change the maximum words of longer pieces to, say 25, and see what is REALLY important. Only the top 25 most important words will show. (Layout>Maximum Words)
-Turn off the default option under "Language" to ignore the most common words (the, and, a, etc.) and see if you've used the word "their," for example, more than any other.
-Choose a custom color palette that reflects the theme of your topic. Students can show that they understand how the mood of their work can be reflected by color choices.
-Keep words or names together by inserting this ch
aracter instead of a space: ~ , for example Google~Docs, Thomas~Jefferson. Thanks for the tip Ms. Goodney! Though I can't believe you kept it from me all this time! Check it:
- Instead of pasting in or typing your own words, paste the URL of a web site (with a feed, like this one) about the topic of study. This box is right below the "Create" area here. Create the Wordle, then see if it summarizes the topic accurately. If not, were your perceptions off about the topic or is the site not that great?
-Use the option under "Language" to show word counts and see just how many times you really did use each of those words.

If you've found more ways to use Wordle educationally (and I know you have!), please post a comment below and tell us!

Wordle: Wordle about Wordle with Common Words
Wordle about Wordle Without Common Words Removed


Jan said...

I like the idea of using wordle to evaluate a website, to see if it REALLY is about what it purports to be about.

Amina said...

This week my partner teacher had the kids make wordles for their mothers for Mother's Day. They turned out super cute. She saved them as jpegs, then uploaded to her online photo app., then sent them to CVS to be printed as photos. She had them put what they call their mom twice so this would be the biggest word and then words in that described their mothers. They are adorable, especially the ones that say things like, "squishy" "hungry" "loud" =)