Sunday, August 14, 2011

Using Word Clouds for Reading Comprehension

When working with text, it can be helpful to try to ascertain the main ideas before reading the selection. I remember getting some practice with SQ3R back in the day (yeah, I just totally aged myself), but that particular strategy can be tough to pull off with a web resource. While there are other tools for helping frame a reading passage, I really like and

This was taken from an article about the 30 million word gap
This was taken from an article about the 30 million word gapCompose

Wordle helps to create a visual word cloud from either pasted text, an RSS feed, or a Delicious account. In this example, I copied all of the text from an article to see which words were repeated. This can be a great way for kids to see main ideas before reading -- and it can help those students generate questions that they think will be answered in the selection. Or, if you are reading prose, copy & paste the text into Wordle to see a graphic representation of repeated words.

This is also a great tool to use for analysis of speeches, bias, writing style, word choice, etc.

Taken from the 30 Million Word gap

The other tool that accomplishes something similar is TagCrowd. While separates TagCrowd from Wordle is that it will show you a word count, you can use other languages, and you can enter a URL as opposed to copying & pasting. It doesn't have the aesthetic choices that Wordle offers, but the other functions make this an attractive tool.

These both have some incredible possibilities for use with students. If you are working on a writing assignment, try having the students paste in their own text to see if they need to work on word choice. Or, analyze major speeches from political figures. Or, compare soliloquies from a Shakespeare play. Or, have students respond electronically to a prompt (like a blog post, for example) and paste all of the responses to see common ideas or themes.

Regardless, these both provide a nice way to use non-linguistic representation of linguistic sources. It's also a good way for students to see if there are unfamiliar words used heavily in a selection.