Writing Matters: Using Wordclouds To Identify Key Terms

If you are comfortable with using a wide range of technology in your classroom, I highly suggest you follow Richard Byrne who runs and manages the website Free Technology of Teachers. He can also be followed on Twitter @rmbyrne. 

Mr. Byrne is a prolific technology teacher who is a huge provider of amazing sites and tools that can help regular teachers improve their game. Last week, he posted about a Google script that can be installed in Google Docs to create word clouds.

What’s the big deal? First, and I quote his column, “Word clouds can help students analyze documents written by others as well as documents of their own creation. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator your students can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document.”¹

This is important for three reasons. Students can analyze the word clouds to determine if the text of their response includes key concepts and terms from the course of study. Second, by creating multiple word clouds of notes taken electronically, students can identify which set of notes most accurately reflects the essential learning of the original source. Third, teachers can highlight the academic vocabulary that should appear in student writing. Teachers can also clarify any misunderstanding or student questions regarding these topics.

Having read Mr. Byrne’s blog, I quickly and easily installed the word cloud script following his directions. I then copied and pasted several examples of world clouds, taken from notes on identical digital texts, for students to compare. Sure enough, students unanimously selected the word cloud that most effectively identified key vocabulary and concepts.

Utilizing this visual technology is simply another way to engage students in conversations about key terms, effective note-taking, and academic vocabulary. It is quick, easy to use, and provides students with a visual element in their revision process.


  1. Byrne, Richard. “Create a Word Cloud Within Your Google Documents.”Free Technology for Teachers. Blogger, 19 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <freetech4teachers.com>.

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