Technology Tools to Use in the Foreign Language Classroom – Wordle

Now that you have set goals to integrate technology in the foreign language classroom (if not make sure you do, as that is the first step you should take to to use technology in your class), it’s time to find out which technology tools are the best for your purpose.

My advice for choosing a technology tool for your classroom is to start simple!

Even if you feel very comfortable with technology, it is a good idea to choose a simple one to start with. Why? Because this is the first stepping stone in your road to incorporating technology into your classroom. It will be easier to analyze your first tries when you start with a simple tool. It is better to build up your knowledge using simple tools at first, than getting frustrated with advanced technology and not seeing results at all.

So, the first classroom technology tool I am going to show you is WORDLE!

Wordle classroom technology teaching toolYou have probably heard of Wordle already. It is a free tool that generates word clouds from any text. The resulting word cloud emphasizes the most common words according to frequency and shows them in different sizes.

Below is one I created with a ‘daily routine’ text. Find the original text here: Daily Routine

Wordle classroom technology teaching toolHow I use Wordle in my Spanish classrooms

  1. Word association and practice writing: create a Wordle with vocab, verbs and grammar of a particular unit. Give the Wordle to students. In groups, ask them to brainstorm what this text could be about, what type of verbs or grammatical structures are being used?, are there any words they don’t know?. As a class come up with conclusions and write them on the board. Finally ask them to write a text with the words from  the cloud. I would use the daily routine Wordle above to practice reflexives, indirect objects and daily routine vocab.
  2. Word – matching activities: write a list of words both in Spanish and English and use the resulting Wordle as a vocab quiz/worksheet. For example Match the Spanish words that are alike or Find the Spanish infinitives. Match the opposites. Match the Hispanic countries with their capitals. And even, match the pronoun with its conjugations.
  3. Spelling rules: create a Wordle with a group of words that follow a certain spelling rule (for example: all words that end in -ion have an accent). Give this word-cloud to students and ask them to analyze it in groups. Then brainstorm their findings and finally set the spelling rule.
  4. Masculine vs Feminine / Plural vs Singular / Adjectives: a similar activity as the one above (spelling rules). Then ask them to generate their own clouds with examples.
  5. Displays: generate Wordle displays of Spanish speaking countries, names of people in Spanish, Hispanic foods, famous Hispanic people, you name it!
  6. Using Wordle with students: before using Wordle with students introduce it to the class. Show them what  it does and how it works with an example. Have your list of words or text ready and explain how to create the word-cloud and how to save it. Use that Wordle to conduct an activity in class. Then brainstorm with the students what other activities could be created with Wordle. Students usually have great ideas, they are one of my favorite sources of inspiration. When you are sure they are comfortable using it, you can assign homework with it. Some ideas:
  • Descriptions: ask the students to write detailed physical descriptions of themselves without mentioning their names (set parameters and word limit). Then ask them to create Wordles with their descriptions and to bring both versions to class. Collect them and give each set a number. Hand out the Wordles randomly and ask each student to guess who the Wordle is about and explain why (pienso que….porque)
  • Sentence structure: Unscrambling sentences.  Get students to write separate sentences on Wordle according to set parameters. They should bring the list of original sentences and the Wordle version of each. Number the Wordles and the originals and hand them out randomly. Students should unscramble the sentences to the correct order and meaning.
  • Reviewing vocab: to review vocab from a specific unit. Give each student a short list. For homework they should plan a Wordle game/activity with this list. In class have them create the clouds. Then swap, review and play.

Other Wordle uses in the foreign language classroom

  1. Introducing units: make a list of important Spanish vocab words, verbs, conjugations, grammar rules, to introduce a unit.
  2. Elementary worksheets: the easiest tool I have found to make “search for words” activities.
  3. Book / notebook covers: get students to design their Spanish book / notebook covers with specific vocab and their names.
  4. Literature use: a colleague uses Wordle to teach literature and poetry. He used it recently to teach the concept of “rhyme”. He posted a poem with rhymes on Wordle. Presented it to students and asked them to look for words that rhyme. He then showed them how the words were used in the poem. See an example here: Rhyme (the original version is the third stanza in this poem)
  5. A great document of ideas: Interesting ways to use Wordle in the classroom started by Tom Barrett

How to use Wordle Tutorial

Alternately, you can watch it here: Wordle Tutorial

Wordle Tips, tricks and things to keep in mind

  1. To save to your computer: On a Mac, click print and save as PDF. On a PC, take a screen shot, crop it and save it.
  2. To delete a Wordle: if you think you may want to delete a Wordle in the future, then make sure you copy the ‘delete URL’ and paste in a Word document to save it for later.
  3. To delete a word from a Wordle: right click on the word and select “remove”. This can only be done before you click “Save to public gallery”
  4. To compile your Wordles into a ‘bank’: pick a username and use it for all of your Wordles (I use my name). Give a distinctive title to each one. On the “description” field, write what it should be used for (i.e.: “find the opposites”). This way you will remember what each one is for and you can use them in the future.
  5. To find your ‘Wordle bank’: use the following link with your own username: http://www.wordle.net/gallery?username=username  This is my Wordle bank
  6. To make a coloring page for elementary: on a white background double click anywhere.
  7. To keep a ‘class bank’: assign an easy ‘class username’ and ask your students to always use this username when saving their work. Make sure you tell them to give Wordles appropriate titles and descriptions.

Some of my Wordles (feel free to use them)

Further reading

A research paper on Using Wordles to teach foreign language writing (especially pages 15-21)

Wordle collection: Wordle on Flickr

Other ideas to use Wordle in a foreign language class. Article by Bartolo Natoli: Using Wordle as a Warmup Activity

How else would you / do you use Wordle as a tool in your foreign language classroom? I would love to know! Please tell me about it in the comment section below.


10 thoughts on “Technology Tools to Use in the Foreign Language Classroom – Wordle

  1. thank you. Very helpful your article about using Wordle.
    I already used it as a way to have students write the new vocabulary and post the Wordle in their blogs.
    Also, we are reading Blane Ray books and I type the whole chapter- into Wordle and they guessed the chapter from it.

    • Hola Sara! Thank you for your comment! Let us know how it goes when you use Wordle. Any new ideas to use it in the foreign language classroom?

  2. I love using Wordle to review key vocab from a story. In pairs, students take turns describing one of the words on the Wordle to their partner (sort of like Taboo but without any limitations of words they can use). Partner guesses which word is being described. A variation on this could be a Wordle with famous people and students take turns describing one and partner determines which person on the Wordle is being described.
    Just came across your site – thanks so much for sharing so many great ideas!

    • Hola Jane,
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing how you use Wordle to practice target language vocab! I will have to try it.

  3. Thank you very much for giving such a detailed explanation on not only how to use Wordle, but also the many uses for it in the classroom. I love how the Wordle activities you describe all encourage and require students to not only read, but also to apply higher order thinking skills. I used World this year to make gifts for my students. My students completed a worksheet where they had to write a positive adjective (in Spanish of course) about each member of their class. Then I typed up all the responses for each individual student into a World and gave it to them as a Valentine’s Day present. The students absolutely loved them and many pasted them on their Spanish folders and are planning on saving them for a long time. It was exciting to me to see how excited my students were about a piece of paper!

    I am wondering how exactly you introduce it to your students. How familiar are your students with technology to being with? My students do not have much access to technology except in computer classes. Some have access at home, but not all. I do not see my students often, so teaching them an extra technology skill such as this takes time away from learning Spanish.

    • Hola Kristen,
      Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your “adjective-gift” idea.

      I use technology in class quite a bit and I have realized that, just like teachers, some students are tech savvy and like using it and some don’t. What I do to introduce the tool to the ones who are not familiar with it, is create a screencast (tutorial) so that while some go ahead and work, others can look at the tutorial and work as they view it. I am hoping to get a post up on differentiation soon.

      Saludos,
      Emilia

  4. I love using WORDLE. I use it for the vocabulary in each unit.I make 15 copies (my groups are of aprox 30 students each) and laminate them then I seat students in pairs so they have the wordle between them.They get a dry erase marker each (making sure that they have a different color each per pair to help them distinguish their answers) Now that they’re in pairs I read out the word in english and they have a blast trying to find the Spanish version and putting a line through it before the other one does…the winner obviously has the most lines in their color.I have rolls of toilet paper and give them a piece to erase and play again.By laminating them I can re-use with my six periods and take out again to review for the test.

    • Hello Angela,
      Thanks so much for sharing your use of Wordle. It is a great tool, easy, versatile and it allows for so many activities. Laminating is a great idea!
      Saludos,
      Emilia

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