Wordle: The Anti-Muddle

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by Jeffrey Ayer, WTWL Writer

Wordle might be the next best thing to sliced bread, and the possibilities for implementation in the classroom are literally endless.  Heck, we could look at the word frequency in the posting I’m writing now.  In fact, we will, and I will create a link at the end.  Sure hope I avoid using “I” too often – uh, oh.  And that’s just one of the many potential uses.  The New York Times has been using word clouds to identify word frequency in significant speeches (most prominent, the speeches of Barack Obama toward the end of his campaign, and again for the inaugural address in January; click here to see his and every president’s inaugural address analyzed since George Washington).

How does it work?  Go to the Wordle site and simply click on “Create.”  Before you do so, take a look at some of the examples hanging out on the homepage.  You will notice that the style, color, and overall design is far more artistic than that of what The New York Times did with the inaugural addresses (and yes, you get to make this magic happen in seconds).

Click on “Create” at the top of the homepage.  The next window prompts you to paste a selection of text (this could be a compilation of student work, an article you assign in class for students to read, and so on), or, if you were more advanced, you could enter the URL for a web page where you might be storing student writing, and so on.  For simplicity’s sake, try copying and pasting something into the field. 

When you’ve pasted the text, click on the “Go” button, located just beneath where you pasted the text.  The next screen that pops up will be a “first” Wordle.  From there, you will see there is a small tool bar where you can select different functions to change the look of your Wordle creation.  You can change the language, font, layout, and color scheme.  You can also remove words by right clicking on one, or even add a maximum number of words (Wordle selects the most frequent).  In my case, with wanting to identify the frequency of my use of that dreaded pronoun I mentioned earlier, you would also want to click on “Language” and drag to “Do Not Remove Common Words.”  This will keep common pronouns and articles included in the Wordle.

It’s also worth noting that you can “Show Word Counts” under language as well.  Obviously, most word processing software does this already, but the word processing gurus aren’t doing anything as visually stimulating and telling as Wordle right now.  And of course, there’s no end to the possible looks you can give this.

Now, what would a teacher do with the product?  Wordle effectively identifies the most commonly used words, so if it’s student writing, a student could use Wordle to identify word frequency (like, dare I use “I”?), or overuse of prepositional phrases, to name just a few possibilities.  On the other end, when reading something new, the teacher (or student) could identify key concepts, new vocabulary, and so on.

If nothing else, creating a piece of artwork with words is just pretty cool, don’t you think?  Give it a try!  Visit http://www.wordle.net/ right now.  Oh, and here is a link to the Wordle for this blog entry (let’s see how “you” did – there I avoided using “I” – ugh!).  Click here to see the results (this sentence is not included, so I I I I I I am abusing the pronoun for fun).

One Comment

  1. Great "How to" and "What to do" Jeff. Simple and to the point. I used Wordle in my 8th grade LA class earlier this year and the kids LOVED it. A great way to engage kids in a fun analysis of the words they are using.