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Gems on the Web – What is a Word Cloud?

A word cloud about word clouds

Russell Stannard is back, talking about Word Clouds and how they can be used in your classroom.

A word cloud or tag cloud is a visual representation of user-generated tags (e.g. blog tags such as the ones at the top of this post), the word content of a website or simply plain text. Word cloud creation tools will look for the most frequently used words or tags and display them as a random pattern, with the more common words or tags appearing larger in the cloud.

Most creation tools also allow you to write in the link to a website and press the button and the cloud is produced by analysing all the text included in the website. Wordle can do this. You can normally print out your clouds or embed it into your blog or website. The videos at the end will take you through all these things.

Here is an example of a Word Cloud. What do you think the topic was about?

Example word cloud

Word clouds have lots of uses


The obvious thing is that they can be used for prediction. So you show the students a cloud you have produced and get them to predict what the topic is or what the content of the text might be. You may ask them some comprehension questions and get them to work out the answers from the word cloud alone. I have tried this several times in class and it works well. It is interesting to contrast their predictions about the text when looking at the cloud and then what the actual content of the text is. You can do this as a class activity or print out clouds and give them out in groups.

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Gems on the Web – Listen and Write

Russell Stannard writes about Listen and Write and explains why it is one of the most useful tools to show your students.

Headphones resting on a bookOne of the most interesting things about the expansion of the Internet and its introduction into the lives of busy teachers is that it opened up a whole world of material that we can direct our students to. The number of resources is amazing, especially the growth in video content. It means that instead of asking our students to do exercises from a book or to write a story or to revise some vocabulary, we can ask them to go onto the internet and listen to an interview or watch a certain video. It makes homework so much more interesting and allows our students to be more autonomous in their approach to learning. One of the tools that teachers seem to really like is Listen and Write.

Listen and Write is a dictation tool. It allows you to listen to a whole range of news programmes and interviews. A lot of it is taken from Voice of America. The great thing about the tool is that all the listening activities are broken up into segments and the programme will continue to repeat and repeat that segment until the student has written it correctly. Then it will move onto the next segment. If the student is really stuck then they can press the hint button to get some help. The hint button provides the next letter in the dictation.

There are a variety of levels, though even the lowest level is fairly hard. However there are tools that can make the dictations easier. Firstly, before you start the dictation you can listen to the complete listening, so that you can get a feel for the dictation and get some context. Secondly if you think the listening is too difficult, then you can choose the “word” option. The word option is easier, some of the words are provided for you and you simply listen to the dictation and complete the rest of the words. It sounds complicated but it is a very easy tool to use. The Listen and Write help videos will show you everything you need to know.

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Naomi Moir – “Educating a child is like building a house”

A short preview of Naomi Moir’s IATEFL talk on teaching young learners.

Listen to the full audio of Naomi’s talk below:

Or download the full mp3 file (26Mb) by right-clicking here and selecting Save Link As (Firefox) or Save File As (Internet Explorer).

UPDATE: View the full presentation slides of Naomi’s talk: Educating a child is like building a house

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Technology In The Classroom – The Teacher’s Equivalent To Marmite?

A jar of Marmite

Have you ever tried Marmite?  If so, did you like it?


I have been asking teachers this question recently.  You’d be surprised at how many teachers around Europe have sampled this quintessentially British product (it’s a black yeast spread, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s lovely on toast).  For a simple product, it divides the nation so much so that the advertising slogan for it is: “love it or hate it”.

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