Mr Finlayson

Education and Technology

Posts Tagged ‘Wordle’


Posted by alexfinlayson on June 12, 2009

I’ve mentioned Wordle in a number of posts so I thought it was about time I talked specifically about this wonderful little program and its potential for use in the classroom…

In their own words…

“Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends”.

Simply put – you enter text into the box – click ‘create’ and a word cloud is generated; giving the most frequently used words more prominence.

Playing Around – Pick the Poem

While I was getting used to the format I used some classic poems, simply inputting the text and clicking ‘create’…

Can you guess what they are? – hold your mouse over the picture to see the title and poet


 The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson





Please Mrs Butler by Allen AhlbergDaffodils by William Wordsworth









Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes









Talking Turkeys by Benjamin ZephaniahThe Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

 Educational Use…

  1. What you just did
  2. Scrapbooking
  3. Analysis of text – Newspaper Articles, Science Reports, Poems – what is the key subject matter?
  4. Vocab list
  5. High-frequency ‘no-excuses’ word wall (display those words that should never be wrong – all classes should have this)
  6. Analysis of key words
  7. Analysis of over-used words (we do this a lot)

E.g. – One of our very first Myst lessons was to write a description of Myst Island. My guys all wrote sentences in their Myst Journals, edited them, then typed them up into a Wiki. We then copied all 20 pieces of text into Wordle… this was the result…

Myst Island

We then used this image to analyse the key words the guys had chosen to describe the island…

Were they too simple?

Could we do better?

This led on to lessons using Visuwords, thesaurus’, similes and metaphorical expressions.


NB: Important – the standard link to Wordle (  takes you to the home page. This page has examples of user-wordle docs. They are not censored. It is wise to link directly to the create page ( thus avoiding images created using the text from a letter to Playboy (true story!) 

And finally, what does this Wordle show?

A Wordle Cloud generated from all the text in this post


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Posted by alexfinlayson on June 11, 2009

As mentioned in a previous post we are lucky enough to have a room dedicated to the teaching of the Myst unit. There are 6 display boards in the room of which we are making good use.


One of the boards is for Myst Island, four others are for the Ages; Stoneship, Spaceship, Mechanic and Channelwood. The final board will be to display a printed version of our interactive Wiki story.

                    Myst Island                                               The Mechanical Age                                 The Spaceship Age


              The Channelwood Age


Myst – giant map, key words, Wordle doc, art, descriptionsWork6

Mechanical – large rotating map, compass points, art

Spaceship – Compass, poems, art key words

Channelwood – This one was interesting because the students decided they wanted to create word walls that looked like the trees in the Channelwood Age. They worked in pairs cutting out the trunks and decorating them to look like bark and then they compiled a list of descriptive words and phrases. This document was then copied into Wordle and the students played with the format until they had something they were happy with and believed fit with the Age.

The students then analysed these Wordle documents and pulled out the words they thought had to be in there, words they could remove and words they could replace with the use of a thesaurus and Visuwords.

The image on the right shows the least successful of these word walls – it is well done and well thought out but the spelling leaves a little to be desired and the choice of words is limited. This group got distracted by the imagery of Wordle and did not use it to thoroughly analyse their words as was the intention.

(NB: ‘Myst’ and ‘mist’ is something my guys have frequently confused and been corrected on – memory retention in this low-level group is certainly interesting)

 I love having displays of the students work up in my rooms – it really lets them feel a Wordle Channelwoodsense of achievement that something they have created is deemed good enough to end up on the wall. I often start the year with a very bland room and let the students work bring the colour and life.

Having the Myst Room has proven beneficial in the sense that all the work for Myst is contained in this one area and when the students enter that room they are surrounded it. This helps them to get into the correct mindset and to concentrate.

A negative aspect of having the Myst room is that for the majority of the day the students favourite work is tucked away in a dark room (and it really is proving to be the students favourite work)

A few close-ups

 Work4The good-old acrostic (not a fan but a good ext. act.)




The piece on the right is from my weakest student – I think this is great – the imagery he creates really fits with what he was trying to describe.

And of course, every boy in Grade 5 loves drawing spaceships – well this was drawn by a girl, at home. Her Mum ”aged’ it a brought it in to ‘see what all the fuss was about’

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Session Two

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 10, 2009

So yesterday we were on strike (bring on equal pay!) and the students had a day to themselves. I had asked on the Monday for my guys to create a diary entry of their first experience on Myst Island. I was expecting some good work from some areas and sadly a distinct lack of effort from others… what I was not expecting was the enthusiasm with which most of my guys took to this task. Many were waiting at the classroom door in the morning eager to show me their new-look journals.

Many of which had dramatically aged over the course of 24hours through the liberal use of fire, vinegar and tea-bags (and gods-of-risk-assessment-be-good; permission) which was great but some of the entries were simply astounding.

In fact, I was so impressed with some of their work that I’m going to set up another folder on the website with the express intention of displaying some scanned pages from their journals – a good way to celebrate their work I think!

Anyway, on with the lesson – enthusiasm was high again. In fact, the class were so excitable that I had to take them out of the Myst Room and back into the classroom to calm things down – once thoroughly prepped on appropriate mechbehaviour; we began again.

This time we jumped straight into the linking book and entered The Mechanical Age – we used the same process as before to describe what we could see but this time we addressed more senses – what could we hear? What could we smell? What could we taste?

We created another Wordle document for our display wall and then, because they had performed exceptionally well throughout the day (with a brief talking-to) we played the game for the last 10 minutes – using my prior knowledge (ah, walkthroughs) and the kids directions we found the blue and red pages (the goal of the game – apparently) and then argued well after the 3 o’clock bell about which one to take back with us.

 NB There are two books in the library on Myst Island – one red, one blue – inside each is a trapped brother begging for you to find more colour-coded pages to free them.

The students are currently split as to which brother they would prefer to be helping – one page was found in a room full of vicious weapons and evil-looking devices (scared some girls, thrilled some boys) and the other in a room in a room filled with luxurious items but also a note describing the incredible greed of the owner… The students are torn – greed or viciousness? For homework they are making their decision and backing it up… mech map

Numeracy/Geography LinkThe main puzzle in The Mechanical Age requires a knowledge of the compass points – we drew a complete compass in our Myst Journals and referred to it to help us solve the problem – a great extra that I did not envisage in planning – this proves the benefit to Tim Ryland’s notion of ‘leaving space in the plans for children to fill’ We left the day with homework to write another journal entry and to analyse the Wordle pictures (gave each student a print-out) with the question in mind’ ‘which words can be improved?’… Tomorrow we will use VisuWords to help us write better description…

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Sesson One

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 10, 2009

The first session in our new setting was very interesting. The children were bubbling over with excitement at their new room and the cinema-like setting of the lesson.

I gave them no background to the game before we started; all I asked was that they try to put themselves into the shoes of the main character. They must pretend like they were in the game.

 Myst Intro


We stood on the docks for a long time throwing around ideas, words and phrases about where we were and what we could see. I have a mixed ability class, top-heavy towards weaker students and a lot of the phrases they were initially coming out with were nothing special (but the aim of the project is to help remedy this)



We took a lot of their ideas and entered them into a Wiki – at first I had the intention of letting each student type in their own work but due to slow typing speeds and a limited number of available computers I changed this – the students stood at the front of the room and read out their descriptions of the island, which I transcribed into the Wiki for them (I was very careful to avoid the temptation of correcting their grammar, this way it serves as a more accurate record)

We then copied the final document into Wordle so we could analyse the key words used by the group. I also printed the Wordle document and placed it on the Myst Island display board (we will refer to it later)







As part of the unit I asked the students to purchase a plain-paged journal which they could use to work in.

The individual work for this session was to create a diary entry based on their initial exploration of the island.

 We were confronted with a tricky puzzle just as we were running out of time. 

 mech lnk puzz

 The object was to get the mechanism to read 2 – 2 – 1 by pulling the left and right levers – the problem being each lever moved two cogs – a great numeracy link for problem-solving and number patterns.

 The students took over from me and took turns until they eventually solved the problem – it was great to see the amount of encouragement they gave each other and the congratulations the successful student received.

 This opened another area of the game for us and I decided to leave it as we were stood in front of a linking book that showed a snippet to a new Age – the students’ reactions were excellent…

 “Why did you stop?!”mech link

“Keep going!”

“Can we stay behind?”

“Argh! Mr F, you always stop before the good bits!”

 NB Playing the game thoroughly before using it in class is essential for knowledge but also gives the added touch of being able to orchestrate and build suspense – slightly mean but great fun

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