I learned about word clouds a few years ago, but for some reason didn’t use them until this year. It is such a quick and easy informal assessment (especially if it’s one of those days where you need to shake things up, or you finished sooner than you expected to) that I can’t believe I haven’t used them before!
Let’s say the topic at hand is the Civil War. My students get a piece of construction paper and write Civil War in the middle in large letters. Then, they write words or phrases around it showing what they remember about the people and events leading to the war, battles, strategies, politics during the war, items related to Lincoln, spies, women during the war, prisoners of war, the effects of the Civil War, etc.
Ideally, they will write the most significant/important words or phrases pretty large and gradually make the other words/phrases smaller as they get to the less significant material (in their opinion). You can expand on this by having students write a paragraph on the back explaining why they illustrated the significance of each phrase/term the way they did, or they could pick 3-5 terms and write a full academic identification for each.
The picture in this post is a sample from my Texas History class. This was the first time I used word clouds with this particular group of students so it’s not ideal (most of her words are the same size), but it shows that everything is a work in progress in a classroom. The review was from the exploration of Texas through our introduction to colonization. This was the day we got back from Thanksgiving break so I was making sure my kids hadn’t completely brain-dumped 4 months worth of school. It also helped me see at a quick glance which topics were less-well-represented on their papers so I would know what to review and in what level of detail.
When they were done (they took about 10 minutes to think and write), they cut their word clouds out in whatever shape they wanted. I posted them around the room and my kids looked at them all, took mental notes, and discussed why different terms were the focus for some students, and why other students gave more weight to other phrases. They also discussed whether anything important was left out that they should be refreshed on before we continued the material. Overall it took about 20 minutes (my girls got pretty heated in their discussion of which terms were more important than others) and I’m looking forward to doing this with them again, especially now that they’re comfortable with this type of activity.
You can find this, and 14 other introduction and review strategies, in my Back to School Bundle. I also wrote about some in THIS post. Do you have a go to review activity or strategy? I’d love to read about it in the comments 🙂
***Updated to show you a few word clouds that my US History students made as an impromptu semester review. I love how creative they got with theirs. The topics were early Native Americans, Exploration, the Foundation of the 13 Colonies, the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War (well, as much as we have covered thus far).