Friday, March 6, 2009

Wonders of Wordle

Example of "Book Preview" Wordle (in place of a traditional "Picture Walk")

As I’m working with teachers, one of my favorite web applications is WORDLE, a tag cloud creator with an artistic edge. Recently, a colleague of mine, Denny Atkinson, used WORDLE with his Social Studies teachers and created tag clouds of famous speeches for comparative purposes and shared his work on Twitter.

I’m constantly coming up with ways to use WORDLE in the classroom and Denny sparked the idea that it would be beneficial to begin a list of what I’m telling teachers. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments area!
  1. Lower Grade ELA teachers – Wordle the text of the book you’re reading and instead of a “picture walk” do a “word walk.” You can introduce frequent vocabulary and let kids predict the story from the combinations of words they see in the WORDLE.
  2. Another for ELA teacher – Wordle a collection of words that represent parts of speech. Change the colors to white words on black background and print on overhead transparency. Project the Wordle onto a large sheet of butcher paper and ask the kids to come and color nouns a certain color, verbs a different color, etc.
  3. An extension of #2 – Wordle Characters and Character traits, print overhead transparency and project. Use a color to connect characters with their specific traits.
  4. Having trouble with kids and transition words? Let the students WORDLE their own writing and analyze which words are being used most often. If “THEN” is the biggest word, the kids will know immediately that they need work with their transitions.
  5. Teaching 6 + 1 traits? Having trouble getting kids to understand importance of Word Choice? Wordle their writing and let them see a visual representation of the words they chose and work with their peers to improve their vocabulary choices!
  6. Social Studies teachers can Wordle news articles from several sources and compare to look at bias or to evaluate credible sources.
  7. Science teachers can Wordle whatever text they are using as in introductory activity to show students vocabulary they will be encountering, then going further by making predictions about what the words might mean in the context of the words that already have prior knowledge of that appear in the Wordle.
  8. Have students Wordle a favorite poem or song for themselves as you introduce them to “Wordling.” This would be a great beginning of the year activity and could be extended to be a “Word Cloud Biography” to hang up in the room and then get to know each other as they do a “Room Walk.”
  9. Building on #8, if students are preparing for a holiday like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. They could Wordle wedding vows, family stories, favorite love songs of their parents or grandparents, or just the names of the people in their families to create a very personal, but creative and artistic gift that’s suitable for framing. (And it’s free!)
  10. Music teachers could Wordle lyrics or famous musician’s biographies for comparative analysis.
  11. Students could Wordle their writing to create a tag cloud as a “front page” for their writing or a “cover” for their books or short stories.
  12. School Systems could Wordle their Mission Statements for a nice visual to hang in classrooms.
  13. An Example of a Standards/Performance Indicator Prioritization Wordle
  14. Teachers beginning the Curriculum Mapping Process could Wordle their State Standards or Performance Indicators to begin the discussion of creating a common language around the critical pieces of curriculum that should be represented in every teacher’s classroom.
  15. Teachers could Wordle their class lists or Principals could Wordle their Staffs’ names to create a neat visual as a basis for a discussion of teaming or the importance of connections between people. (Making sure everyone in the Wordle is represented by the same size font.)
  16. Teachers could also use Wordle visually represent grading rubrics as a reminder of the important points that students should consider while doing projects.

I’m sure there are tons of other uses for Wordle and I hope that you’ll add more in the comments section. Besides being a tool for Analysis and Evaluation, and fitting in with Bloom’s Taxonomy, it also fits in with Marzano’s “nonlinguistic represenations” and “comparison” models, as well as Jensen’s brain based learning research. Doing things in a different way, utilizing color, creating visuals—all have an effect on how the brain learns and remembers information. Wordle is a great tool to help maximize learning with the content you’re teaching!

Update (3/15/09):

Here are a couple more uses of Wordle! You can wordle a website or a blog and prioritize the overall message! Here are a couple of examples:

(Click to view larger image)
This is a wordle of Janet Hale's Curriculum Mapping 101 site. You can tell by looking at the wordle exactly what this site is about: Curriculum Mapping! While out of textual context, the other words clue you in to the gist of the rest of the message: the process is important, the teacher is important, the learning is important. Additionally, you can see that practice and design, as well as collaboration are key components of Curriculum Mapping.

(Click to view larger image)
Here's an example of a blog wordle, which you can do by pasting a web address with an RSS feed into the Wordle create window. This is Angela Stockman's blog feed, but instead of focusing on a one main message, like a static website would, the blog Wordle focuses on the message of the moment. For the last few blog posts, what you see above is a prioritization of what's on Angela's mind at this moment. In a few days, with more blog posts, the words and the wordle will change. If this was a classroom situation where we were making comparisons, comparative analysis of wordles from changing blogs would be a great thing to consider or a great discussion starter!

What ways can you come up with for using Wordle? I think I'm soon going to need a Wordle Wiki to share examples!

Resources: Images of Wordles are licensed .


  1. I happened to be writing IEPs when I read this blog post. So I Wordled my PLEP statements. It was really interesting to see the students name as the largest word. Thinking of taking it to CSE meeting and sharing with student as a reminder of all of their abilities.

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

  2. That's an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I wordled my dissertation proposal abstract, and found out that some of the major appearances weren't what it was all about. It gave me a chance to do some rewriting.

  4. Denice, that's a great usage of Wordle! I'm going to share that in the next workshop I do!

  5. Love Wordle! Here are a couple of examples of Wordle use in my 6th grade Language Arts class.

    Progress report generic comment

    Inaugural Speech Wordles

    Student wordles of character descriptions

  6. I am hosting Guess the wordle at

    New wordles each MWF. Monday's are easy. Wednesday's are a bit more difficult. Friday's are hard.

    I invite you to come visit.



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