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					                                 Annual Conference Cardiff 2009
                                                  April 1st, 2009
                                What’s in a Wordle?
                                        A ‘beautiful word cloud’

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Created by Jonathan Feinberg, an IBM programmer, ( purely as a decorative
amusement (he had no pedagogic or linguistic motive). He has offered it as a free facility for people to
create graphics from text that they upload. The graphics you create are then yours to do with as you
wish. The interesting features for language teachers are that:
    1) more frequent words are increased in size
    2) common words (the, and, of etc.) are excluded by default but can be included
    3) individual words can be excluded with a simple right click
    4) the ‘Randomize’ feature creates new versions of a particular text instantly, making it easy to
        make a number of different Wordles for a text
    5) The layout can be customised for maximum readability (eg all text horizontal)
    6) There is no limit on size or style of the text – it is a quick, easy way to make short texts and word
        lists look funky, or to explore the phraseology of a longer text such as a political speech.
    7) At last corpus linguistics is ‘sexy’!

                                   Tilly Harrison, University of Warwick
How to make a Wordle:
  1) Find the text you want to use, select and copy it
  2) Go to and click ‘Create’. Paste the text into the box which says ‘Paste in a bunch of
  3) Click Go.
How to customise your Wordle
  The buttons at the top allow you to change your Wordle to suit your needs
       You can make all the words upper case or lower case which is useful for consistency if the
         original text is mixed
       You can include common words (such as ‘the’,’and’ etc) which can be a good discussion
         point about why these words are so large. It is also useful when asking students to recreate
         sentences from the Wordle – they have a number of function words to choose from.
         Individual words can be excluded by Right Click (this does not work on a Mac) so words
         which are huge such as ‘the’ can be made to disappear.
       The ‘Show Word counts’ window gives all the words in the text in alphabet order or in
         frequency order which is useful if you need to know exactly how many times a word
         occurred in a text.
       There is a wide variety of fonts, all of them freely licenced for use on the site.
       Some fonts for non Romaic scripts are available (not Chinese or Japanese yet)
       Double clicking on a word turns the font into ‘outline’ format.
       There are a number of options which affect readability of the words – All Horizontal is best
         for Landscape layout.
       When asking students to select and group words, ‘Any Which Way’ is a good option.
       If a certain effect is desired (a certain word in front of another) then texts can be repeatedly
         reformatted (retaining the settings you want) until the effect is achieved
       Alphabetical order (left to right) can also be selected.
       Restricting the number of words which can appear to 30 or so ensures that all the key words
         are large enough to be legible, which is useful with a long text.
       A number of colour options are offered including black and grey for easier photocopying
       Customising colours is easy which is useful if you want mostly grey with one bright colour
         to highlight a certain word
       You can choose how varied the colors are (all words a different colour or most words
How to Capture your Wordle
      1) If you simply want a number of versions of a text for a class and do not need to save the
         graphics, simply print them (they print to A4 size).
      2) If you wish to put the graphic into a web page, Click ‘Publish to Gallery’ (name the text and
         add your username – this is useful to find your Wordles later as username is now the only
         way to search for previous Wordles in the Gallery). A few lines of html code are given which
         you copy and paste into the relevant part of your webpage.
      3) If you wish to capture the Wordle as a graphic you can either use Screen Capture software to
         choose it, or Print Screen. Then paste into a document
      4) You can also save the Wordle as a pdf file by clicking ‘Print’ and choosing ‘Save as PDF’
         (not all printers offer this option).

                                   Tilly Harrison, University of Warwick
Suggestions for Language Teaching uses of Wordles

Text Focus
Wordles from Texts that will be read in class (or for homework)
   1) The aim of the Wordle is to make the students curious about the content of a text so that they
       will read it with more concentration when it is handed out.
   2) You can use the Wordle to pre-teach important vocabulary from the text
   3) It is also a way to activate the students’ existing vocabulary and knowledge on the topic
Look at the Wordle – what is the text about?
Look at the Wordle – which words do you already know?
Look at the Wordle – how many sentences can you make from the words?

Text Comparison
(NB for a fascinating comparison of USA Presidential
Inaugural Addresses)
Wordles of similar texts
   1) Get a quick overview of the main themes of various texts
   2) Stimulate discussion of the differences between them
Look at these Wordles – what do the larger words suggest about the focus of each text?

Concept Focus
Wordles from students’ own writing on a topic
   1) The Wordle can bring out themes or key words that students have used
   2) Reflection on the Wordle can stimulate further discussion.
Look at the Wordle of the writing you have done – what were the most frequent words? Is that what you
expected? (NB if you exclude (right click) the actual topic words which are likely to be huge and are
obvious from the context, you allow the other words to gain in size and readability).

Word Focus
Wordles from dictionary definitions, examples, concordance lines of a particular word
    1) The Wordle allows the frequent collocates of the word to appear larger around the word.
    2) Looking at the Wordle allows deeper processing of the word and its collocates NB Students can
        be encouraged to make these Wordles themselves.
Look at the words that are often found with ‘x’. Which words would come in front of ‘x’? Which words
after? In what phrases is ‘x’ found?
Can you make any sentences with ‘x’ and these words?
Which words are close in meaning to ‘x’?

Wordles from teacher-made lists of words with specific prefixes / suffixes
   1) To allow focus on a word set using an attractive layout

                                  Tilly Harrison, University of Warwick
Which words can go with ‘x’? Which words go with ‘y’?

List focus
Wordles of vocabulary lists
     1) To make lists look more attractive
Make a Wordle of the vocabulary that you want to learn. Choose an attractive layout. Print it out and put
it somewhere that you will see it often (the back of the toilet door?)
NB Teacher-made Wordles to take home and learn have had positive results – see the Lesson Plan by
Fran O’Leary on J.F.’s blog

Grammar Focus
Wordles from Sentences
   1) To show a sentence in a scrambled but attractive way
   2) To allow close focus on grammar.
Can you make any phrases from these words?
What is the sentence that can be made from these words?
Are there any alternative word orders?

Wordles from Word collections around a concept
   1) To allow focus on a vocabulary field
   2) To combine lexical with grammatical knowledge of a field
Look at the Wordle – put the words into groups. Label your groups.
Make a list / circle / highlight the nouns / verbs / adverbs / adjectives.
Which words are positive / negative?

There is a Wordle Users group here
A previous discussion list was deleted due to spam problems which is a shame as it had some ideas from
teachers on it.

There are more Wordle ideas with examples on Maggie Harnew’s blog
Although they were designed for adult literacy (for native speakers of English) they are equally useful
for learners of English.

I have collected some Wordles on this page

However the whole point of Wordle is to allow creativity and to be
customised to your own context, so plunge in and have a go!

                                     Tilly Harrison, University of Warwick

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