And so began my love affair with word clouds.
A word cloud is a computer-generated assortment of words. There are a lot of free websites to create your own word cloud. My son and his teacher made their word clouds at www.wordle.net . It's a really simple process: you type in the words you want to use, hit the "create" button, then play around with the layout, color and font using the dropdown menus at the top of the screen. (Note: Make sure you have all the words spelled correctly and that you're happy with what you've typed because there isn't an edit feature... you have to start all over).
For this wordle, I typed "spring" 3 times to make it the biggest word. Then, from the menu along the top of the screen, I played around with different fonts and layouts, and I customized the color palette I wanted to use in the "color" menu. To make "green grass" and "rainy days" stick together on the word cloud, I typed them in as green~grass, and rainy~days.
This is another website that I think is cool for making word clouds: www.worditout.com .
Here's one last website: http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm This website is very similar to wordle.net, but it's very user friendly, perfect for early gradeschoolers. The pulldown menus at the top don't offer as many choices as the other websites I've mentioned, but it's a great site for children!
Back to my son's Mother's Day card (and May of last year): a week or so after Mother's Day, my Algebra students were getting ready for the final exam. I printed out a list of the 20+ topics we had studied during the semester, I herded them into the computer lab and gave them a quick tutorial on how to use wordle.net, then I turned them loose to create a word cloud out of 12 of the words on the topics list. The students really enjoyed this non-numeric activity and each student's wordle was unique. Their personalities shined through in their color, font, and word-arrangement choices. After printing off their wordles, we put them all up on the bulletin board (talk about a room-brightener!) and then the students went to work writing a quiz consisting of one problem for each of the 12 words they used in their wordle. For example, if they used, "factoring", their quiz had to have a problem that required factoring in it. They also had to provide me with a key. They were graded on their wordle (20 free points), their quiz (30 virtually-free points) and their answer key (50 points). It was a great culminating activity and I really feel like the kids got a lot out of writing the quiz and making their answer keys.
Here are some other ideas I have for using word clouds: 1.) For Christmas this year, I had my grade-school aged kids make a wordle about their teacher. We printed them out and then put them in a frame. 2.) For the reluctant speller: Make a word cloud with the week's spelling words early in the week; a word cloud would be a lot more interesting to study from then a boring old list! 3.) Doing a report on a famous person? Make a word cloud all about the person--facts, dates, etc.!
AND-the beat all to end all: Last weekend's race t-shirt had a word cloud on the front!!!! Imagine my excitement!