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!
You 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Displays: generate Wordle displays of Spanish speaking countries, names of people in Spanish, Hispanic foods, famous Hispanic people, you name it!
- 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
- Introducing units: make a list of important Spanish vocab words, verbs, conjugations, grammar rules, to introduce a unit.
- Elementary worksheets: the easiest tool I have found to make “search for words” activities.
- Book / notebook covers: get students to design their Spanish book / notebook covers with specific vocab and their names.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”
- 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.
- 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
- To make a coloring page for elementary: on a white background double click anywhere.
- 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)
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