Word Clouds

#edtech #cotlf #edchat Over the past several years, word clouds have become extremely popular. You’ve probably noticed them online, and of course our profile photo is a word cloud as well. Two great, free programs for creating word clouds online are Wordle & Tagxedo. Both programs take long text passages and convert them into word clouds, increasing the size of frequently used words, which helps make the main idea of a passage really pop! (Our profile picture is a word cloud made from the ISTE Tech Standards for Students.) Wordle is very simple to use, and Tagxedo has the added feature of being able to form word clouds into shapes. The photo below shows word clouds that were on display in a 6th grade classroom at Boltz Middle School. Students created word clouds to showcase their personalities and interests.

Word Cloud Example

Check out the list below for some other ways to use word clouds with students.

Student Reflection/Exit Ticket: Have students fill out a simple Google survey asking them either what they learned at the end of a unit or what questions they still have. Copy and paste their responses into a word cloud to see which words stand out. Remember, the larger the word, the more frequently it was written—this can give you a great overview of what they’re thinking!

Class Summary: After students post blog entries or contribute to an online discussion, use all their text to create a word cloud to see what the group’s main ideas were.

Revision: Ask students to copy and paste a draft they’ve written into Wordle or Tagxedo. They can use the resulting word cloud to determine if their main idea is what they intended or if they’re overusing any particular words or phrases. This can help them realize that they need to revise their writing to get their point across or use better vocabulary.

Visual Aide: Students can create a word cloud from a final draft and use the result in a report cover, title slide, etc.

Prediction/Scaffolding: Create a word cloud of a text students are about to read and have them make predictions about the unit, discuss unknown terms, think about themes, etc. (Many textbooks come with a CD version that includes digital text you can copy and paste.) You can also use their responses to determine what they already know about the topic and use that to help shape your unit.

Unit Review: At the end of a unit, create a word cloud of the text and any content from that unit and ask students to use the word cloud to summarize what they’ve learned. Build up a collection of these end-of-unit word clouds and pull them out randomly to help students remember past units, vocabulary, and so on.

Personal Narratives/Analysis: After students write a personal narrative, use their work to create a word cloud. Use the results to discuss words that are commonly used by girls or boys, by age group, nationality, etc. The resulting word clouds also make great bulletin boards!

Famous Texts/Speeches: Make a word cloud from a famous historical speech or document (US Constitution, for example). Analyze the results and discuss what can be learned about the speaker/document, what intentions they seem to have, etc. Check out The History Place http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/previous.htm & American Rhetoric http://www.americanrhetoric.com/top100speechesall.html for text from famous speeches.

Compare & Contrast: Use a word cloud to compare and contrast two students’ writing, famous speeches, news stories, lyrics, poems, book reviews or anything else!

Current Events: Transform a news story into a word cloud and ask students to think about what the story was about, guess the headline, where it happened, etc.

Word Cloud Word Wall: Ask students to brainstorm synonyms, antonyms or definitions for their vocabulary words, and add those word clouds to your word wall.

Concrete Poetry: Ask students to write a poem about an object, then have them create a word cloud in the shape of their object in Tagxedo using the text of their poem.

All About Me Word Cloud: Have every student write 3 words to describe each of their classmates. Compile the words about each child into a word cloud and display in your classroom. This is a great beginning of the year/feel good activity for students!


Recurring Calendar Events

#cotlf #edtech Schedule recurring calendar events in Outlook with ease; when scheduling a new appointment, just click on the “Recurrence” button in the “Appointment” menu. You can customize how frequently you want the event to occur, (i.e. every Monday, every 10th day of the month, every 3rd Friday, every year, etc.), and even set an end date. This is a great way to schedule those weekly staff meetings and make sure that you don’t have them on your calendar over the summer as well! You can also schedule birthdays and anniversaries this way and help ensure that you’re never unprepared again!

Find It Fast!

#cotlf #edtech #vitalcpd Find text you’re looking for fast with the CTRL F keyboard shortcut. If you’re searching for something in a document, website, or other text based file, type CTRL F.  (Just hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and type “F” for “Find”.) This will pop up a search window that will allow you to search for text. This can be extremely handy if you’re trying to locate information on a particular topic on a website or if you’re trying to find that one line of text you remember reading but can’t remember where it was. As long as you can recall one keyword that was used, CTRL F will help you find it! This can be an enormous time saver and a great research “tool” for students to use as well.

Highlight Websites

#edtech #cotlf #edchat Did you know you can highlight websites and take notes on them as well?? There are several different online programs (free!) that let you do this. One that’s especially easy to use is called Webnotes.

Webnotes works as a Firefox plugin. You can highlight text, add sticky notes to the web page, and organize your annotated websites into folders. You can also view all the notes/highlights within a folder easily. Share this tool with students as they work on a research project to help them organize and access the resources they find. Because it’s a plugin, you and your students can create a Webnotes account, and use it within your Firefox browser without admin privileges.

File Management with Students


#cotlf #edtech #vitalcpd One of the biggest obstacles students run into when working on tech projects is finding the files they need. You can help prevent this! Teach your kids to organize their work.

Left to their own devices, more often than not, kids forget where they saved or what they named a file. As a result, they often lose lots of time looking for their work or even recreating it, leading to lost class time and great frustration. To prevent this problem, help your kids get organized. Make them create a folder for your class (i.e. English 9), where they will save all files for your class. When you start a new project that will require more than one file to complete (i.e. MovieMaker), have your students create a subfolder within their class folder, and insist that they all name the folder something you assign (i.e. Memoirs). Tell students to save ALL files for their projects in that project’s folder—regardless of whether it’s a photo, music, or other type of file.

If you teach high school, then that’s probably enough instruction. But for younger grades, or less tech savvy students, take it one step further. Tell your students what to name their files as well. That way, if they STILL manage to “lose” a file, you’ll know what the file is called, making it much easier to find!  Although this may seem a bit over the top, you’ll be amazed at how much time and heartache this procedure will save you and your students! It will also help students learn how to organize and name their files. Without a little guidance, students often pile all their files into one folder with no regard for organization, or pay little attention to the file name, winding up with files cleverly named “Publisher 1”, “Publisher 2”, etc. After many years of this, they will not be able to find anything! Taking the time to help them get organized will make a big difference for them and for you.


#cotlf #elemchat Help students remember and understand various topics using their love of music. Flocabulary creates hip-hop music and curricular materials to teach academic content in grades K-12.  The songs and music videos are very well done and available for all core subjects.  They also create a weekly rap on current events! Lesson plans and cloze activities are provided, as well as related worksheets if desired.  All songs and videos are organized by subject and topic, making it easy to find what you need. Some videos are free, but most are not. Subscription cost is $5-$7/month, depending on which plan you choose. You can get a 14 day free trial and check out all they have to offer. (School plans are available, too.)

Work Smarter, Not Harder

#cotlf #edtech If you like to multi-task or need to view information from two sources at once, you can quickly and easily view two programs or windows at the same time in Windows 7. This can be especially helpful for activities like copying grades from Blackboard into Pinnacle! Use the Windows 7 “Snap” feature by just clicking on the title bar (the top bar of the program) of one program or window, and while holding down the left mouse button, drag it all the way to the left (or right) side of your screen until you see a blue highlight or outline fill that half of the screen. Then just let go! See below:

Repeat this process with the second window only drag it to the other side of your screen (remember, don’t let go until you see the blue highlight fill half the screen!) When you’re done, your two windows will be side by side and exactly half your screen, like this: