Not too long ago I created an activity with my students where I asked them to write three types of literary genres they enjoy the most. The task involved writing three words on index cards. I then asked them to meet in groups to share their words. Group by group, they would come to the podium and add their words on Wordle.net – adding each word repeatedly at times and only once other times. At the end, I would let WordleTM do its thing. The result was a collective word cloud that would visualize the commonalities among everyone in my class. From there, we would create a list of titles to explore and read as a group. My class loved it!
Ever since that day, I had been waiting for a synchronous version to the original word cloud. Well, my wishes have been answered. At last! Now I can do this activity (and others) using AnswerGarden (https://answergarden.ch) or Mentimeter (www.mentimeter.com).
These two applications allow users to add key words in response to a question. The best part is that answers are automatically randomized and sized depending on the input frequency. Better yet, the word cloud continuously updates as users add content. It’s fun. I love it.
Word Cloud Uses
There are many ways teachers can use these word cloud tools in the classroom.
- To find out how many languages students speak
- To brainstorm vocabulary
- To check spelling
- To find out students’ food preferences or allergies
- To check for understanding (e.g. types of transitions, word forms, listening comprehension)
. . . and the list goes on!
From Uses to Purpose
As with any tech tool used in the classroom, it should have a specific purpose. Hence, relevancy should ultimately outweigh the coolness of the tool. What do you do with the words you collect? Perhaps the smaller words in the word cloud signify a gap in students’ learning or knowledge base. Sometimes, it could simply mean that the majority wins, so on that particular day the preferred theme or topic is discussed in class.
Doing the Unexpected
I have had students thank me for exposing them to literature that they thought they didn’t like. Had I only focussed on what they already knew for this group, I would not have received this acknowledgement.
The Moral of the Story
Trying the tools is half the fun. For me it is all about how the tool enhances learning in a fun, engaging way.
What tool have you tried lately? Did it work the way you expect it? Reply below or go to Online Tool Survey to submit your answer.