With President Obama giving his last State of the Union speech this last week, I thought I would share a lesson idea of how to use the tag clouds in different ways.
A Tag Cloud is “a visual depiction of user-generated tags attached to online content, typically using color and font size to represent the prominence or frequency of the tags depicted”
We see these on the net all the time and in classrooms as word walls but this lesson idea is to use written primary sources, such as poems or speeches, to condense the entirety of the text into a word cloud.
Here is the lesson:
Below is a screenshot of the most recent State of the Union Address
As you can seen, you get the gist of the speech but just glancing at the words which appear most frequently. The larger the word, the more often it was said. Therefore, "reading" the speech this way allows the student to see quickly the main ideas and theme of the speech.
Try following up this "reading" exercise with a writing one. Have the students use some of the words to write a summary of the speech. For example "write the main idea of this speech in ONE sentence but you must include at least 6 terms found in this word cloud." Or try using this as a comparison strategy by comparing one State of the Union address to a past one (i.e. Bush after 9/11 compared to FDR after Pearl Harbor) . Or take this years speech with the Republican response by Nikki Haley and students can compare the two views of the country from different political viewpoints. As a teacher you can stress comparison strategies and techniques like analyzing Point of View.
Here is a link to the text from the Republican response so you can see the difference yourselves.
And below is a Word Cloud of the response from Nikki Haley - notice some interesting words being used like "difference" and "frustration".
Now you use many more types of sources than just speeches. Try this with passages of text; sections from a novel, short stories, poems, etc. Here a few examples
Please share back any interesting ways you have used Word Clouds with your students.