Tech Tips for ELT Trainers-3: Using Wordle for Vocabulary

Have you heard of Word Clouds?

Wordle is a great site that allows you to create word clouds out of a text.

You can use this
  • to pre-teach vocabulary, 
  • do a predictive exercise on an article or a reading you're about to do, 
  • make a vocabulary review exercise based on a lexis presented in a textbook and you can even  
  • make a poster for your classroom of discussion starters.

Here's a video that explains how to use it:

Pre-teach vocabulary based on an article:
Simply copy a recent article on a subject your students are interested in (online from the net) and then paste this text into wordle. The most frequently used, key-words, will be larger. Get your students to focus on the smaller words and check understanding. 

Predictive exercise based on a reading you're about to present:
Read through an article and then choose around 15 words which you think are an essential part of the story. Type these words into wordle. Multiply the most relevant words exponentially so that some words take on greater importance, i.e. copy a couple of the words and then paste them in ten, fifteen, twenty-five times etc. - depending on how large you'd like some of the words to be.

Give the sheet to the students and get them to tell you what they think the story/ article will be about.

Make a vocabulary review exercise:
Take a list of vocabulary based on a course book you're currently using and import these into wordle, along with synonyms and antonyms, if you wish.

Give the list to the students and review them. You can also do a matching exercise with these.

Consider working different lexical sets within one wordle - say car parts, automotive collocations,  frequent idioms about cars, name of manufacturers and then get your students making different groups out of the words - try turning it into a conversation exercise.

Conversation starters:
Type a list of topics which are regularly seen in the headlines or brainstorm topics you know your students are interested in discussing into a wordle.

Print the wordle(s) out, magnify and paste it up on your classroom wall.

Regularly encourage students to choose which topics they'd like to talk about at the beginning of each class and hold 10-15 minute conversations based on the ones they chose.

Homework activities:
Get your students making their own wordles of words they would like to review in the next class with you.

Useful links related to this posting:
A Wordle I made about Facebook for Business English students
Article that goes with this activity
Notes and further lesson ideas I wrote on the biz-e-tech wiki.
More tips on teaching with technology here.

  • Update 18March2009 -just found a few extra tips on Nik Peachey's blog, here.
  • Update 20April 2009 - Tom Barrett has created a comprehensive list of different ways to use wordle. The list is mainly aimed at primary/secondary educators but contains many ideas which can be adapted for the EFL classroom.
  •  Update 29May 2010 - Marisa Constantinides has written a post comparing different kinds of word cloud tools. JamieKeddie discovered a really useful way of keeping phrases together here.

This post was last updated 29-05-2010

Have you already used Wordle
to create BE lessons? 
Have you got a great tip to share?

3 Responses to “Tech Tips for ELT Trainers-3: Using Wordle for Vocabulary”

  • Ronaldo Lima Jr. says:
    March 16, 2009

    Hey Karenne!

    Great post!

    wordle is definitely an excellent tool for language teachers/learners. I'm currently teaching an online course called Practical Writing. In one of the weeks students will work with resumes and letters of application. I'll have them create a Word Cloud of their resumes so that they can visualize - and also self-assess - their careers. Here is the link to my visual resume:

    March 17, 2009

    Ronaldo - smart idea and perfect for Business English! Loved seeing your resume like that... I wonder what someone in HR would say if someone ever sent something like that in - I may just try it one day ;-). Very cool, thanks very much for sharing the link.

  • Anonymous says:
    March 19, 2009

    Hey Karenne,
    That Wordle is SOOOO cool. I think I'll even use it for my advanced students. Give them a copy and they make up the text. Or read a text to them out loud, give them the main words created on WORDLE and they recreate the text.
    Thanks, A.F


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