Word Clouds by ABCYa.com
Type of technology: iPad App (referral to web-based app too)
SAMR Model Rating: Redefinition
Grade level: Any grade level that uses digital platforms for reading or writing.
Subject area: Language Arts, ELD
Word Clouds are graphic representations of word frequency. The size of the text is dependent on the number of times the word appears in a given text. It’s a good tool for reading, writing, and art.
The way I use them is fairly simple. In fourth grade, students tend to use overuse basic words. After writing a composition, students copy and paste the text into the WordCloudABCya app ( in the computer lab, they paste it into Wordle– which a little trickier). Then they save the word cloud in their images or photo stream.
How is this helpful?
1) In writing: Word clouds make a writer aware of the words most often used in their own writing. The Word Clouds by ABCya App generates a graphic. They can then use a thesaurus to help vary word choice for overused words. Sometimes, spelling errors become very obvious in word clouds too. The app automatically filters out words such as “and” and “the” so that they don’t come up in the word cloud. If a teacher wants specific vocabulary to be used, the teacher can require that the word show up in a larger font in the word cloud. As a multilingual students I would have benefitted from its use. We tend to talk around unfamiliar words. This leads to overuse of basic words. Thus the use of the word cloud can help students and teachers target words for vocabulary development.
2) In reading: Emerging learners can input pre-written text into a word cloud to help sort out central or main ideas. They can also match their thinking to the gist of the piece using this tool. The example above is taken from an informative writing standard of the CA Common Core Standards for 4th graders. You can easily see that informational writing, requires on topic writing that clearly cnveys and examines related ideas from multiple texts.
3) In publishing, they make cool graphics.
If you want something more artistic, and you are willing to pay a little, you can use the Phoetic iPad App. You can play with real pictures you take on your device. The frequency piece is slightly lacking here though- probably to get the desired shape. The larger words remain the same.
After spending weeks writing a story, one of my students placed her text into Phoetic. She said that even though the picture didn’t look like her, the word cloud photo was more like “her” than a camera could ever capture.
I know it’s simple. I know it’s fast. I know I haven’t thought of all the applications. Sometimes, when we are teaching, that’s just what we need.