Reading is one of my favorite activities; I am rarely caught without a book in public, what would I do when I find myself unexpectedly having to wait for something? I guess I could pull out my cell phone and start scrolling through stuff but I would much rather read a book. It can be difficult for my young students to relate though. Most of them don’t read for fun, certainly not in English anyway. So, how can I show my students how fun reading can be, get them prepared for the text and encourage them to interact with each other? In a word (actually two words), Word Clouds!
What is a Word Cloud?
This is a Word Cloud! It is a kind of picture or shape made from the words in a text. You simply copy and paste the text of whatever article or story you will be asking your students to read into the program and it does all the work for you.
The program will remove all of the function words like and, so, and the and it will keep the content words. It will then rank the content words according to how many times they are used in the text and it will make the most frequent ones bigger while the lesser used words are smaller. Then it takes all of those differently sized words and puts them into a shape of your choosing.
For this word cloud, I copy/pasted the story Desiree's Baby by Kate Chopin into wordart.com and there you have it.
4 Interactive Ways to Use Word Clouds to Introduce Text to ESL/EFL Students
1. have races
2. Infer a Summary
3. Vocabulary Builder
4. Create a Dialogue
4 of my favorite short stories and why I love them
1. All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury
This is a story about a little girl whose family immigrated from Earth to Venus (a planet where it rains all the time, except for one hour every 7 years when the sun comes out). She doesn’t fit in, misses the sun, is miserable and as a result, the other children don’t like her. The class is waiting for the sun to come out and the teacher has stepped out for a few minutes.
I love this story because there are a lot of important themes and so many things you can do with it. The language is understandable for intermediate students.
2. High and Lifted Up by Mike Krath
This is a story about a little boy who becomes a leaf. He blows around town and meets other leaves before his mother catches him.
I love the light-hearted feel of this story and it's simple, easy to read language.
3. Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin
This story is about a man who falls in love with a woman who was abandoned as a child. No one knows who her parents were but she was adopted by his neighbor. He married her and was very happy but when they had a child, the child showed signs of being black. He was a slave owner and couldn’t accept her or the child after that. He then finds out something that changed everything, or maybe it didn’t.
I love this story because it has a lot to say about racism, identity, happiness and society. The language is a bit difficult so it is probably best for advanced classes.
4. A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker
This is more of what goes on inside your head while you are waiting for something really important than a story which is great because you can have students infer what happened using the clues in the text.
I love it because It is very relatable because everyone has experienced something similar while they are waiting. The language is fairly easy and it repeats a lot so it would work for intermediate students.
Do you use word clouds in your classrooms? How do you introduce readings? What are your students' favorite stories? Let me know in the comments!
Hi, I'm Kia.
Teaching is my passion, I have been teaching for over 20 years in 4 different continents. One of the things I have learned over the years is that I am never done learning about teaching. Both teaching and learning should be fun and inspiring.
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