Word Cloud – Student influenced Input

Often I go to Keith Toda’s page, todallycomprehensible or Martina Bex’s site to find activities that I can use in class tomorrow.  Both have posted on word cloud’s with Keith’s being a nice introduction for how to use one quickly and Martina’s which takes the activity farther.  In the past I’ve used word clouds as an introductory activity and a way to expose students to vocabulary in a different way.

Recently I used a word cloud as both Keith and Martina suggest as an activity to solicit predictions from students.  This works best during a time the class is reading something with multiple scenes, chapters or stories over a period of time.  This allows students to connect to past readings, stories, characters and events and creates stronger predictions.

We’ve been reading about 2 characters and students are not sure the relationship of these 2 characters.  Are they a couple?  friends?  related?  Recently, a third character invited them both to a Roman dinner party.  This brought out more possibilities for the feelings of the original 2 characters.  The male character proceeded to write a letter to a friend asking for advice about what he should do next.  This is the point our word cloud came into play.  All 3 characters will end up at the dinner party.  I took the story and put it in a word cloud and reminded students that the larger words appear more often.

Students began by making simple predictions based on the larger words in the cloud.  Some of the examples were:

  • many people will be at the party because of the plural homines.
  • there will be a rumor about one of the 3 main characters because the Roman goddes Fama and the Latin word for rumor, fama/m is present.
  • the dinner is at the house of Herminius
  • people will eat a lot of food – based on comedere – to eat
  • the 3 main characters will talk to each other a lot, Balbus, Crispa and Herminius.

After students made predictions we played a round of the partner cloud race.  I called out English translations of words or phrases and students attempted to circle the correct Latin before their partner on the larger word cloud.  There isn’t a ton of acquisition during this, but it is a nice activity for students to compete with one another and realize that they know quite a bit of the vocabulary about to show up in their reading.

Day 2 we opened with another round of the partner cloud race.  Next, in groups, students compared their predictions from the previous day.  They chose a few to use to write Latin sentences.  I used this as a time to demonstrate to them how to move their writing toward the Novice High and Intermediate low levels.  Many of their original predictions were simple.

Multi homines – many people.  We discussed all the information we were missing.  Where were the many people?  Many groups had at the house of Herminius in their predictions.  They started to see how easy it was for them to take the simple phrase multi homines and turn in it into a Latin sentence that is connected and provides basic information.  Multi homines sunt ad cenam apud domum Hermini.  Many people are at dinner at the house of Herminius.  Some groups took this farther and they started to connect their 5 sentences as they answered more questions about their simple predictions.  It was a fantastic way to show them how to add details to their writing and thoughts while staying in bounds with familiar words and phrases.

As a FYI, we completed the sentence work on a block day as my school runs a modified block with 3 8 period days and 2 block days each week.  This allowed us to spend a good chunk of time on this editing work.  Without the block day I might spend a whole regular period on moving simple predictions to Latin sentences.

I collected one sheet from each group that had their mini stories created from their predictions.  On day 3, I opened by reading a couple of these mini stories and asking the class simple questions.  Ratio aut nuga?  Reasonable or nonsense based on what we know.  I used that to circle questions to elicit more information about the validity to their predictions based on the texts we had already read.  I will probably move on from the word cloud on Monday, day 4, because they seem ready to move on.  I easily could have spent another day perhaps by typing up their short story predictions and creating a written activity.

As I reflect, this was more compelling than my attempts to create an interesting story line with my stories, yet it was using the story line I originally created.  Students wanted to hear each other’s predictions.  They were interested in offering evidence to why a prediction was reasonable.  And it created a ton of input, yet I only created the original 2 word cloud documents to make it happen.

This is a great activity to try as a way to create input and let the input drive the lessons for a few days.  You can do this with any text.  You could even simply project the word cloud and have students write down predictions on their own paper.  You can meet students where they are and offer strong examples of writing that is based on the familiar that they already know.  Although I see this as a pre-reading activity, it’s true value is in the input created.  It is student driven.  It uses the familiar.  It is low prep.  Give it a try.




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