My daughter lately has been playing with something called wordle, which appropriately can be found at http://www.wordle.net/ . Basically it takes any text you put in and makes a word poem based on frequency. An example of this comes from taking our recent discussion on the ACTFL modes and inputting it, which leads to this:
As you can see, it creates a compelling summary of whatever you’re working on by pointing out what gets said more often than other things. The more frequent a word is used, the bigger it becomes. In this case, I’m glad to know that as important as grading, rubrics and even culture are to this assessment discussion, students form the center of what we were talking about.
Because we’re so much concerned with word frequency in creating our stories, I was curious to see how well one of the stories I created for my seventh grade class (about a student who was looking for sushi at all kinds of places but couldn’t find it until the end) shaped up. I inputted the story and here is what I got:
As you can see, the biggest things that got through were my student himself (Ryan) and a waitress (Kellnerin) who showed up as his foil at various locations. There are various other terms we were playing with–Kuhzunge (cow tongue), celery, schlägt (hits), springt (jumps), etc.–that made the story lively, but now looking at this Wordle, it astonishes me how many times I just talked about Ryan. To a certain degree, this word poem can be a tool for showing us what our students got out of a given story, by highlighting what got said the most. In this case, there were interesting facts that happened, but I’m happy that I was mostly talking about my students. In fact Ryan for the rest of the quarter that I had him was always asking if we could do more stories; now I see why.
One other possible use I thought of for this involves using wordle to prescreen texts for the most frequent words so we know what we need to pre-teach. I’m taking the text below from one the “News of the Weird” articles I think I want to use (like here: http://www.sowieso.de/portal/boah-ey/dieb-im-koffer) that deals with how some thieves were stealing stuff out of luggage on a bus by stuffing one thief IN a big suitcase, who would then subsequently rifle through other suitcases while in transit.
A quick look points out to me that I need to focus on the words Dieb (thief), Koffer (luggage), Komplize (accomplice), and Innenstadt (inner city). Of those I had figured the first three terms would be necessary, but I totally overlooked how frequently Innenstadt shows up here. I also think that this will be a good text, because those words are so much more frequent than the others; an example of a less useful text might be one in which there were very few large words.
Anyways. Is this a toy? Yes. Is also a tool? I think so. Not only do they look cool (I might print a couple out to poetically emphasize class rules or to accompany a story collection I create for FVR), but the way in which they highlight word frequency is actually quite useful.