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Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary’

Word Clouds in the Classroom

My daughter’s word cloud, created by her using wordart.com

 

Fun came to my daughter’s 7th grade language arts class in the form of a cloud.

A word cloud.

It was a simple and fun project, but one that my daughter took seriously.

The assignment: Using the site wordart.com, she was asked to create a word cloud that represented her. Her word cloud would consist of a shape, words, and colors, all of which she inputted into the site to create a unique image.

This project was educational in three ways: as a tech project, as vocabulary development, and as a “who-am-I?” exercise. The results were beautiful. [Side note: She loved her word cloud so much that she decided to make 12 more, one for each family member for the holidays. They were a big hit.]

The whole experience was a fantastic one, and I started wondering how other teachers use word clouds in the classroom. Well, I was in for a surprise! I found more than 100 ideas for educational uses of words clouds. This article gives ideas for ten word cloud activities and this article discusses more than 100 ways to use word clouds in the classroom!

I even found teachers discussing word-cloud ideas in various blog and article comments sections. For example, in the comments section of a 2010 edition of the New York Times feature Teacher Q, a teacher named Paula shares her experience using word clouds with her students. I thought it was worth including here, so I excerpted her comment:

“I have been using the website www.wordle.net. It has been so helpful as a pre-reading tool. Before I assign them a challenging paragraph on the board, I copy and paste the text onto the text box, and click submit, and voila, a beautiful word cloud. Then, referring to the word cloud, students choose the words that are likely to be the most significant: such as hydra, corruption, legislation. They explain the meanings of the words, then predict what the passage will be about. They correctly predicted it would involve corruption in the law, and that a hydra (snake) was somehow involved. It has worked well. Even before they read the passage, they had a very good idea of what it will be about! Before, tackling passages from Plato’s Republic was very intimidating; but word clouds make it much more accessible.”

Want to go straight to a word-cloud site and create your own? A lot of teachers seem to recommend wordle.net and wordart.com. But check out this article for nine more recommendations.

Tip: Help students understand a Pro/Con Leading Issue in SIRS Discoverer by using a word cloud of vocabulary terms regarding the topic. For example, here’s one created for the Homework leading issue:

Word cloud representing the Homework Pro/Con Leading Issue on SIRS Discoverer, created by the ProQuest staff using wordart.com

 

Happy creating!

Using SIRS Issues Researcher to Teach Vocabulary Development

By Jamie Gregory, Media Specialist, James F. Byrnes High School, Duncan, SC

To me, the best part about anticipating the start of a new school year is that nothing has happened yet. The entire year is a blank slate. Time is all yours. So why not plan to implement a research-based strategy this year that you know will work?

I am a long-time supporter of ProQuest databases. I was formerly an English teacher at the same high school where I am now one of two media specialists, and even before I arrived at my school back then, my media center subscribed to ProQuest resources. We are long-time believers!

My colleague Karen Hill and I have noticed that due to the implementation of technology over the past five years, students need a much different research skills set that we are not always providing them with the opportunities to learn. For example, not all databases use the same interface. Different keywords may be used to retrieve information on the same subjects. Does the database return PDF files of full-text articles? Abstracts? Is the keyword search more useful than the subject search? How do I save the article I want to use?

Vocabulary As a Research Skill

In my opinion, however, one of the most basic and important research skills is vocabulary. What are the words I should use to describe the information I want to find? Without a complex and prolific vocabulary, students won’t even be aware of the information they can’t find. It’s a librarian’s dream to teach these skills, to be sure, but for teachers, it often seems even more overwhelming on top of demands to teach content area information.

However, we as media specialists are continually striving to share ideas with teachers about how to embed information literacy skills into any content area.

Image Courtesy of Jamie Gregory

Use of a Keyword Log 

In search of ideas, this past February, I read “Doubling Up: authentic vocabulary development through the inquiry process” by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci published in the February 2017 issue of Teacher Librarian. Maniotes and Cellucci are two researchers involved in the development of the Guided Inquiry Design model, based on research conducted by Carol Kuhlthau. When I saw this article and read the first paragraph, one word came to mind: genius! I knew I wanted to implement the keyword log introduced in the article because it would be a useful step forward in encouraging students to develop and refine vocabulary skills necessary to the research process.

Image Courtesy of Jamie Gregory

Students use the keyword log as a method of self-reflection by recording each information search. Students record their progress when they discover new and different search terms; by recording the results of each search, they will learn which databases and which search terms provided them with the best information they needed. The process of using the keyword log begins with students using databases to find information.

We primarily use the SIRS Issues Researcher database with students. When first introducing students to SIRS, we show them how the issues marked with an asterisk indicate that it is a main category that will contain a list of related issues with essential questions, which helps with topic selection.

Military Ethics Main Category in SIRS Issues Researcher

We also show students that when they click on an essential question to view the topic page, they can also view additional critical thinking questions to help guide their topic selection.

Critical Thinking & Analysis Questions in SIRS Issues Researcher

Once students have conducted an information search, we show them the related search terms feature. It’s super easy to search related subject terms for vocabulary development, especially for students who don’t know too much about their topic. The subject terms are listed at the end of each article, which students can click on.

Subjects in Results List in SIRS Issues Researcher

The image below is a sample of some searches I performed during whole-class instruction after introducing the keyword log. It’s not perfect and it’s pretty simple, but that’s the scaffolding I needed to provide with this particular group of students.

Image Courtesy of Jamie Gregory

The students I worked with to use the keyword log when beginning their research all responded that it was a useful tool. They responded in a survey at the end of the unit that they learned search terms they previously didn’t know, using the keyword log helped get “all of the junky results out of the way,” it showed them what not to do when searching in the future, and it helped them keep track of their research.

Try Something New This Year

So this year, try something new that has been proven to work. The SIRS Issues Researcher database is an essential tool in implementing the keyword log because of its incredibly user-friendly interface, and the features it offers helps educators develop information literacy skills that students will be able to apply across all disciplines.

 

Jamie Gregory taught high school English and French for 8 years before completing the MLIS degree from the University of South Carolina. She is beginning her 5th year working as a high school media specialist at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, SC.