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Word clouds - Formative assessment to measure your students learning

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We are always looking for new ways to measure our students’ learning in the classroom. One visually appealing tool that can be used as a type of formative assessment is a word cloud. Set your students a challenge and measure their reading comprehension by creating a word cloud together. 


In this blog post we will look at: 

  1. What a word cloud is
  2. The benefits of creating a word cloud
  3. Ways in which word clouds can be used to assess your students' understanding


What is a word cloud? 

A word cloud is a collection of words depicted in different sizes, in the shape of a “cloud”. Word clouds are used as a visual representation of word data. They are very easy to read and simple to understand, making them a great way to assess your students’ understanding of a particular topic. They are also a great tool for the more visual learners in your group, who may find big sections of text overwhelming. 


Word clouds can be a powerful formative assessment tool giving you an idea of your students’ vocabulary knowledge and their ability to identify key ideas on a particular subject. 


What are the benefits of a word cloud?

  • Word clouds help you to measure understanding of a topic
  • They can help you to measure change / growth in understanding, when used at the start and end of an unit
  • Word clouds will help you identify vocabulary / topics that need to be refreshed 
  • They can help you to understand what your students feel about a topic
  • Word clouds will help your students’ summarise their view of a topic
  • Word clouds can help you to identify what is important to your students
  • They can also help your students’ work on their communication skills

Ways in which you can use word clouds in the classroom

  1. Pre-assessment: Use a word cloud at the beginning of a lesson or unit to encourage students to draw on their previous knowledge and so you can measure your students’ understanding of a topic. Generate a cloud using terms or phrases related to your latest unit. 
  2. Check vocabulary: Create a word cloud with your students’ using vocabulary from a recent unit or lesson to assess what vocabulary is the strongest and which words you need to go over again. 
  3. Summarising at the end of a lesson: Have your students create a word cloud at the end of your lesson to summerise what they have learned. Students’ can compare and discuss with their peers helping them develop their communication skills and the word clouds can be used to assess their ability to understand and identify important information. 
  4. Reflective assessment: You could create a word cloud that allows your students’ to express their personal thoughts, feelings and reactions to a subject you have covered. At the end of a unit you can ask students’ to create a word cloud that captures their emotions and impressions of the topic. 

There are plenty of websites (you will find some gathered here) that will generate a word cloud for you for free but if you do not have access to this simply create your word cloud on the board in your classroom or have your students draw their own.

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Written by Rebecca Sparling





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