Have kids make word clouds about life during the pandemic
My students have been home since March 17. As part of their distance learning, I’ve asked them to write a couple of paragraphs every other day or so for a “Life in the Time of Corona” journal.
This journal, which we will finish in the fall, will document their personal experience during the global pandemic.
I got the idea for students to create these journals thanks to a tweet from Kelly Gallagher in March. Here’s the assignment sheet I created to guide students through the journal assignment.
To add variety to their journals, I suggested that students illustrate life during the pandemic by making a word cloud… a collage of words from a news article or words they select on their own that this website then assembles into a composition based on the frequency of the words in the selection. Students choose the shapes of their clouds among other details explained below.
Do you remember how several years ago these creations were known as wordles? I tried the wordle website, but found a message asking me, for security reasons, to purchase it in my app store. That seemed like too much hassle, so I kept looking and eventually found wordclouds.com, which was easy to access and use.
I gave students this website to use, wordclouds.com, which is published by Dutch game developer Zygomatic. I also provided them an example cloud, which I made by selecting the first paragraph of a news article I found online.
Here’s my example, which appeared quite small on the assignment sheet for the week:
In essence, a word cloud is a graphic representation of the ideas within a short text.
I’ve posted a few of these below that students have sent me by email or turned into my homework crate in the school lobby during the closing.
I like how each word cloud is different. Each reflects the thoughts, emotions, and interests of each student.
Students can customize fonts and cloud shapes, from coffee cups to continents.
Students can also choose the colors used to make their cloud.
Some students have limited internet access. Those students –or even those tired of screentime–were able to make a word cloud by hand, like this one:
Along the way, I also asked students to collect scrapbook items they could add to the journals to add variety and interest. I’ve had kids collect order pad stubs from their restaurant jobs, labels off of hand sanitizer bottles, squares of toilet paper, four leaf clovers, and other items. I think I’m really going to enjoy seeing these journals come together next fall!
I like word clouds. They’re quick, fun, and allow students to be creative. Even if they’re merely copying and pasting words from another text, it’s still interesting to see what each student designs. Word clouds were a nice diversion in the middle of distance learning.