Wordle your graded reader

Welcome to my blog, especially if you're coming to my talk on Using Graded Readers with Technology at the Macmillan Teacher's Days in either León or Ponferrada this week.

Below an image for one of the tasks I'll be suggesting, which I created by pasting text from the Macmillan reader Room 13 and other stories into Wordle:

The task

  • With a partner, pick out the 15-20 most important words, phrases, dates, names etc. from the story
  • Put them into Wordle, making the most important words largest
  • Share it with us and describe it to us, justifying your choices

I like the task for various reasons: it's collaborative (and therefore communicative); it requires the learners to go back to the text, to re-read it, and to select elements from it; and then make decisions about what they're going to pick out.

Sharing their work with the rest of the class (I suggest either a blog or Edmodo) is something you might once have done by hanging things on your classroom wall but posting it online means that other learners can not only see it but add comments to it: that's further interaction and further language practice.

To find out if your learners are doing their reading assignments, you could bore them with questions, but why not instead get them to prove they've read it by getting them to actually do something with the text, something they'll actually enjoy doing?

Notes on using Wordle
To get phrases to stay together, rather than splitting up into their component words, you need to replace the spaces between the words with tildes, thus:

Room~13 and the~sound~of~mad~laughter.

To increase their size, you simply need to repeat them: if you paste in Room~13 Room~13 Room~13 graveyard, for example, Room 13 will be approximately three times larger than the word graveyard.

In order to save your Wordle cloud, you will need to capture your screen (my favourite tool for that is Jing).

With Wordle you can also choose fonts and colours and so on (with a partner, also opportunity for language practice): in my example, above, I've chosen colors more or less in accord with Room 13 being a ghost story.

More on using Wordle
Even if you're not using readers, you might like Nik Peachey's guide on How to Wordle and these many More things you can do with Wordle.

You also have a number of Wordle clones, one of the best of which is Tagxedo. Many of these 101 ways to use Tagxedo could also be used with Wordle.

Also from the talk
Macmillan readers | A reading and creative writing task | All the tasks

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  1. Tom,

    I love using Wordles with readers (though I prefer Tagxedo as you can stick the words into shapes etc).

    With really young YL books I have typed the whole text in, and left in frequent words (good graded readers do recycle vocab of course!).

    We have then collaboratively retold the story, embellishing each others ideas as we go. A decent extension would be to record this as an Audioboo or a Fotobabble.

    Another idea would be to exploit the new multi-player function on Quizlet (you`ll need to input your key words first!) where the challenge is to compose a sentence around the key word at random.

    Power to your readers!


  2. Thanks for those ideas, Jim. There's such a lot you can do with Wordle.

    It does have the disadvantage that your control over shapes is a bit random. If more is required, an alternative is to create your word cloud using a single PowerPoint slide.

    I've also used the IWB to create a word cloud, an idea which I like when it's been done collaboratively, as I think it involves more talking and less clicking (a possible disadvantage of Wordle).

    The ideas I like best for Wordle: those where it's the learners using it, not me :-)!

  3. "What do you actually do in class?" was one of the questions asked during the session in Ponferrada, referring particularly to Task #12, involving the learners producing an audio recording of a short scene from the reader.

    It depends to some extent on what equipment is available to you: if you have a computer room available (with headsets for recording), or the learners have mobile phones that will record as mp3 files, or a digital recorder, then the recording can be done in class.

    However, above all, I like to use the face-to-face classroom time for (1) pairwork speaking practice, so rehearsal of the scripts they're writing; and for (2) providing language help (including vocabulary, pronunciation, intonation…) and (3) providing encouragement and ideas.

    I try and have the learners rehearse in class and perform it for me without any use of technology; and them have them use the technology they have at home to do the recording; the posting online; the commenting on each other's work… as most of the learners I work with do have computers and Internet at home.

    So all in all, I'm generally in fact not spending a lot of time on the technology in class; using the class time for English practice; but making the homework so much more interesting (and the graded reader too!) because my learners then get to use technology to create and share things.

  4. Hi Tom,

    I've been using Wordle with my Primary students to study for spelling and vocabulary tests. It seems so much more motivational for them to study their spelling lists this way. There are several parts to it:

    1. They first just type each word in about five times. The fact that they are still learning how to type itself has them thinking of the spelling in a slower manner and looking for the appropiate key on the computer.
    They go on and create an wordle with that and they bring it to class.

    2. We do a pre-test and these results are then used to make a new wordle. This time, they will have to type 5 times those they have misspelled and just twice or once the rest of the words depending on how much difficulty they had recalling the correct spelling. This way they get an attractive visual where the most difficult words stand out. I ask student to comment their wordle in small groups, discussing which words do they need to restudy, why do they find it difficult, what is just a silly mistake, etc.

    They like to keep these in a kind of album. 🙂

  5. Hey, that's a fun way to use it Laia!

    My one doubt: what's to stop them from writing the word once, and then copying and pasting it?

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