Are you looking for a lesson plan that will engage your students? Then keep reading for an interactive solution that will make students of all levels want to learn. Motivating students to read is more challenging than ever. How does an educator compete with brief Facebook posts and 120-character "tweets"? Just as the melodious fragrances from a spice bazaar whet the appetite, anticipation is what creates an interest in reading. How can you, as a teacher, create anticipation? One method is to give your students a brief overview using key words contained in the material. You could use a simple vocabulary list. Vocab lists, though, are static and boring. We need a vocab list that "pops"; something that engages. Word clouds provide us a way to present a vocab list in a fun and exciting way. Word clouds, though, require time and an artistic touch. What if there was a way to automate the word cloud creation process? It would be nice to choose from a variety of colors, fonts, sizes, etc. Such a solution would allow you to create anticipation in a fun, interactive way.
We found something along those lines in an online word cloud creation tool called Wordle (http://www.wordle.net.) In a little bit we will talk about how Wordle can help you create anticipation for reading among your students. Creating a word cloud with Wordle is a simple process. When you copy text from your chosen source and paste the text into the Wordle "create" page (or type the text yourself,) a word cloud is created for you. The words that appear with more frequency are given a larger font size; and vice-versa for words that appear with less frequency. Once your word cloud is created, you can adjust any number of settings: word orientation, font style, text color, etc. When you are happy with your final result, you can print the word cloud. (To embed the word cloud in your website or blog, you will need to capture the image. There are various ways of doing this. In Windows 7 we like the built-in Snipping Tool. Check out this website for more information on other image-capture methods: http://take-a-screenshot.org/.)
Practical Classroom Application
How can Wordle help you create anticipation for reading among your students? No doubt, you already include in your lesson plans relevant material you find on the Internet. Word clouds can give your students an overview of the information you want to present. How, though, do we make it interesting? Here's how: Find two articles you want your students to read. Copy the text from one article and paste it into Wordle. Create a word cloud, fine tune it, and print. Do the same with the second article. As a homework assignment, give one of the original articles and its word cloud to half the class; and give the second original article and its word cloud to the other half. In class, have one half of the class present only the word cloud to the other half. Have the other students try to see if they can figure out, by only using the word cloud, what the corresponding original article is about. Then, have the students switch roles. By presenting each word cloud as a challenge, you create anticipation for reading. All the students will want to know how close they were in guessing correctly the subject of the original article.
Keep reading for some examples of the above method for World Languages. The first two word clouds below were taken from articles written in French; the second two were written in Spanish. Can you guess the subject of the original articles?
There are many other classroom uses for Wordle: Language Arts, Social Studies, Current Events, etc. What other ideas do you have for using Wordle in the classroom? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.