Monday, October 27, 2008

A Wordle Lesson Plan

Many teachers have written to me about their use of Wordle in the classroom. Miss Fran O’Leary, of the English & Media Studies department of Redruth School, UK, has kindly given me her permission to share with you her lively account of one such use. I quote:

You asked me, if I remembered, to feed back on my use of Wordle for spelling and vocabulary. I'd love to share the success, so here we go.
  • First time: hmmm, not sure that the students really knew what to make of it. They did OK, but no better than you would imagine.
  • Second time: I changed the test slightly. I told them to take the sheet home and use it in any way they wanted to 'learn the words'. I then tested their knowledge with questions such as:"only one of these words was longer than 9 letters, which one was it?", "choose any word you like, but it must be spelled 100% correctly", "which word has the most vowels?" The results were still OK, but nothing amazing.
  • Third time: they asked if it would be like the second one; I said yes but without the 100% spelling thing. They blew me away with the test results. OK, not everyone answered all ten questions, but of the questions answered there were only 4 spelling mistakes; some incorrect answers, but they had spelled the chosen words correctly anyway.
  • Fourth time: similar positive result.
  • Fifth time: again, superb on the spelling front and yet I had long stopped asking them to 'spell'. Plus, this time the last of the hardcore "I ain't doing it" students had a go and surprised us both.
  • And so on...
I'm still puzzling as to the exact reasons why this method has been so successful in engaging students with new vocabulary, but I've come to the conclusion that it's a combination of: the vocabulary sheet allowing more interaction through physical turning and handling; colours allowing associations or categories to be formed; and testing for understanding and exploration rather than technical accuracy. Then again, it could just be as simple as the explanation given by one of the girls "it's kinda pretty and it's different. You like to use things like that, don't ya?"

Wordle Advanced

Many users have asked for a way to use Wordle as sort of an output device for more sophisticated text analyses, so I give you Wordle Advanced.

There you'll find a couple of forms for pasting your word-weight data. One form also expects colors, as hex numbers. So now, if you've done, say, a Dunning log-likelihood analysis of some text versus a normative corpus, you can get a Wordle of the result, and you could even assign your own colors based on parts of speech, or relative frequency within the source document, what have you.

Use in good health.