To develop a comprehensive vocabulary, students must build connections between words and cultivate sophisticated schemas of meaning. Teachers can use graphic organizers as a tool to help students visualize the interconnection between words to support this process. In the transliterate classroom, one way students can create powerful graphic organizers to support vocabulary growth is through the use of word clouds.

A word cloud is a compilation of words associated to a distinct idea that has been appropriated from a narrative or informational text on the topic. The words in the cloud often vary in print size and color. The more frequently a word is found in the text, the larger it appears in the cloud. A quick look at the cloud can help students preview a text passage, introduce key terms, and strengthen vocabulary.

Teachers and students can create word clouds using a number of free websites, most of which work in a similar manner. ABCYa! Word Clouds is a great place to get started with early elementary students. Begin by finding a passage of grade-level appropriate text online that you plan on having students read. Students can then type or paste the text into the word box, press the create button and view the word cloud. After generating the word cloud, students can change the color, layout and font of the words through an easy-to-use interface. ABCYa! Word Clouds can be saved or printed for later reference.

When teachers model the creation of word clouds using ABCYa! Word Clouds or a similar web application, they are not only offering opportunities to strengthen vocabulary, but also exposing students to critical transliteracy skills such as highlight, copy, paste and “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editing. Teachers should be teaching the vocabulary associated with these technological tasks alongside academic vocabulary contained in the text.