Creating a word cloud from a book or history lesson is essentially mining--mining words and ideas to focus on essential elements and gems within a work, but a fancy program isn't necessary. Construction paper, felt, a blackboard, sidewalk, chalk, markers, glue, Velcro, you get the idea, is all you need, and probably will appeal more to your visual artists and kinetic learners. Just be sure to let your techies have their moment of glory on a computer, from time to time. For library programs this is perfect. Get your young readers to create a word cloud of their favorite book titles or focus on a specific book. Put them on posters, hang them above bookshelves or on walls, or fix the words directly onto a wall.
Speeches & Pre-reading
Speeches such as Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" or Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," are marvelous in a word cloud and a good way to add dimension to a historical fiction. Word clouds can also be used for pre-reading. For example, students can enter the major headings from a textbook into a word cloud program as a foundation for a new unit.
Recently, I was having trouble refocusing on a work in progress after some time away. A friend suggested I make a Wordle. Just saying Wordle is fun. The result is to your left. As well as focusing on main themes, word clouds work well for helping your creative writing students generate characters. They might even place it in a silhouette.
Words are fun whatever the medium. I hope you'll put word clouds in your kit. And be sure to pull it out when the robot programmers in your life start wilting.
Here are a couple more websites you might want to check out:
Michele Hathaway is a writer and freelance editor. She has an M. A. in Social Anthropology and has worked in libraries in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She writes stories set in culturally diverse, historical and contemporary periods.