A great way to ‘visual’ text is to use word clouds. Word clouds take a set of words, be it in a text or a word list, and display it in a shape where words counts dictate how large the word appears. A word that is used a great deal gets a large font where a word that is used sparingly is displayed in a small font. Word clouds are often used as a pre-reading exercise to help students draw on their previous knowledge or to focus on new vocabulary before diving into the reading. It can also be used to evaluate a student’s writing to help them realise where they can make changes to the text. If there are only a few words and there a words that are much larger than the rest, the author may need to diversify their lexical choices. Here are 5 word cloud generators that don’t need registration:
Wordle: Probably the most popular site for creating word clouds and is one of the best for creating high-quality printable versions of the image. Paste in a text or put in a website URL and it creates a random word cloud. Change the font, style, colour and limit words. You can also check word counts as well. Print out as an image to save for later (if you have the capability of printing as a PDF, you can then print the cloud as large as you want without problems with losing quality).
TagCrowd: Paste or upload a text or choose a website URL. Enter your criteria including word limitations and word counts, and create a square type word cloud that can be embedded or printed. The PDF download function didn’t work for me, but it may be just a temporary problem.
Wispy.me: Grab text from Twitter or Facebook or paste in your text, choose your colour scheme and font, and create an instant word cloud. Save to a unique URL and then download the image to your computer or share with others.
ABCya! Word Clouds: This is a nice little word cloud generator designed for kids. It can’t handle larger texts (seems to have trouble beyond about 35 words), but the images are nice and can be downloaded as a jpeg image file or printed. You do have some control of fonts, colour, and layout as well.
WordItOut: This is the only word cloud generator listed here that needs an email address to save it. You can always do a screen shot or put in a temporary email address to get the file. You can paste text or get from a URL and create a word cloud with some control on font, colour, and layout.
Have you used word clouds in your class before? How did you use it? Share your ideas or thoughts in the comment section below, send me a Tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact form on this webpage. This list is part of a larger list of webtools that don’t need student registration. Thank you!