Saturday, April 2, 2011

You are a language teacher, and you don't know what WORDLE is?

The title of this entry is provocative, I know. It's meant to be. Because I want you to coax you into using WORDLE in your classes.

But what is WORDLE? Well, don't depend on anybody's description (including mine own); it's a lot better if you go to the web page to see and experience things for yourself. Go where, I hear you ask. Here is the link:

But if you insist on me giving you description, then read below (taken from Wordle's web page itself):

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

Just so? Then why do language teachers need to know how to create word clouds from Wordle? Oh, there are several reasons. Let me tell you a few:

1. It's fun. "Worldle" allow you to make beautiful world clouds by experimenting with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. Try it for yourself, and you will see that you can make beautiful "word arts". Your students will love this kind of activity because it's fun, I am sure. You can even organize wordle competitions, using students' essays to make word clouds, and give the best prize to the most beautiful and meaningful word cloud where the format, style, and layout fit with the content of the essay. Lots and lots of fun to be expected.

2. It's actually a tool for language research. Each word cloud is a summary of the main points in a piece of writing, based on the frequencies of the words used in the writing. I've read an article somewhere in which they compare the two speeches made by two Heads of Nations - US and Vietnam. Looking at the word clouds you can immediately tell what is considered most important in each speech.

Below is a word cloud created from the text of the US constitution (I believe). See how beautiful it is, and meaningful at the same time.

See how beautiful it is? And very meaningful. Did you see that the most prominent words are: State, Congress, President, United States? And you will see that Vice-President is a lot less prominent than President, but still it is there. And other things too, hidden messages everywhere. Let you students discover and describe what they find. A lot of interesting activities can be generated.

Now you see why I have that provocative question as the title of this entry? Then go there, create you word clouds, and use it in class!

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