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Monday, 23 March 2015

Wordle - Discover new words by creating Word Clouds


What is Wordle?

Wordle is a free on-line tool that allows you to create word clouds, like the one in the picture above. This can be done by either copy-pasting a whole text or by copying the URL of a web page, including a blog. Depending on how frequent the same words appear on the texts those words will appear larger on the word cloud. There are also some options for modifying the word cloud, like changing the words' colours and the background's colour, changing the fonts, as well as an option that allows you to remove very frequent words from the word cloud, such as the articles.

Example activity

I believe that wordle holds the potential to aid learning in enriching their vocabulary. Learning a language is not a process that happens solely inside a classroom, In countries where English is not used outside the classroom, by the time learners leave the class, the will stop thinking in English, because English does not have any uses in their everyday life.

To deal with that, we could urge our learners to start making connections between what's happening inside the class and outside of that. This would only be possible if our lessons dealt with topic that are universally appealing, In other words, topics should be culturally provoking in the sense that they are culturally specific but, at the same time they are present in all cultures' (Saraceni 2013:58).  For instance, we could ask our learners to create word clouds with words that belong to the same meaning-based families. So, if we having a lesson about literature, we could ask our learners to create a list of words they encounter that are linked to books. Then, they could also sort the words depending on how frequent they encounter them. So, in the end they will have a list of words that are linked to books and with some of them appearing more than once in the list. Then they could copy paste this list in wordle in order to create the word clouds. The result might look like that.

Pedagogical value

As I have already mentioned, the lack of domains in which English are used in Greece and many other countries where English is perceived as a foreign language, significantly decreases the opportunities for language practice. Therefore, the point of this activity is to have learners think in English outside the classroom.

Another potential advantage of this activity originates from the learners sense of discovery. What I mean is that a lesson cannot cover all the vocabulary items linked to a certain topic. Too much new vocabulary will hinder the learning process. Therefore, it is normal that learners will encounter vocabulary items connected to books that were not introduced in the lesson. As a result, it is likely that they will use a dictionary to find the English equivalent words. I believe that learners know better than any teacher in the world their own zone of proximal development. As long as their motivated to carry out the task. they will try to identify as many words as they can learn. However, teachers should not put pressure on their learners to include words that they have not encountered during the lesson. It is them who they would put pressure on themselves to find more words for their word clouds. And even if they stick to the words presented in the lesson, they would have still carried out the task and spend extra time using the Target language.

Target Audience

Connecting things you encounter in your every day life with a given word (book) constitutes a logical process; therefore I believe that this would benefit sequential learners, who enjoy identifying those connections compared to global learners who often tend to learn in large jumps and more randomly. Those type of learners will enjoy categorising information. And this what this activity is trying to achieve. So, by creating  those different groups of words, hopefully, those type of learners will be able to recall the words when they need them.


Saraceni, C. (2013). Adapting material: A Personal View. In Developing Materials for Language Teaching (1st ed., p. 58). London: Bloomsbury.


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