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Good writing: using word clouds to determine the main point of an essay

A word cloud is a visual representation or “cloud” of any body of text. Typically, a word cloud program creates an image of your text, with the most frequently used words in a large font and the infrequently used words in progressively smaller fonts. These visual maps allow visual learners to determine the main point or topic of an essay.

Learning styles

Psychologists have identified several different learning styles. These learning styles include

  • Verbal: learn primarily through the use of words.
  • Kinesthetic – learns primarily through movement.
  • Auditory: learns primarily through hearing
  • Touch: learn primarily through touch
  • Visual – Learn primarily through sight.

Visual Disadvantaged Students

In a writing class, students who have a verbal learning style have an obvious advantage. The text they read is made up mostly of words; grammar exercises are made up of words; the essays they write are all words. But what about students whose learning style is not verbal, but visual? These students are at a disadvantage. Sometimes these students fumble through their essays without being able to articulate a main idea, while their verbal counterparts simply do so.

Word clouds

A word cloud can be seen as a “drawing” or map of an essay. Once a student has written an essay, that student can submit the essay to a word cloud generator, and that student can literally “see” the main point of the essay by looking at the size of the relevant words he uses the most in the essay. test. For example, if a student wishes to write an essay on the topic of “animal rights,” then that student can expect to see the words “animal” and “rights” in large, bold letters from the essay’s word cloud. But what if the words “animal” and “rights” are very small? So that student knows, visually, that they may want to revise the essay to emphasize the main topic.

Limitations

Using word clouds to help visual learners determine the main point of a draft is just one tool among many that can help a student write a better and more focused essay. Like any tool, these visual maps have limitations. Words like “is” and “the” are not normally included in a word cloud. Only “content” words are drawn. This feature may be a limitation if the teacher is trying to emphasize the limited use of the verb “to be.”

Final thoughts

Used correctly, word clouds can be a useful tool for visual learners to determine the main point of their essay drafts and revise them accordingly. I have used this tool successfully in the writing classes that I teach. Students often print and submit different clouds because they find them eye-catching. Most importantly, visual learners get a visual picture of their essay, with the main point, as articulated, in large, bold type.

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