Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Novel Ideas: A Wordle Story

September 30th, 2012 · 6 Comments

At slightly past midnight, I’m still sitting behind my illuminated computer screen hammering away at the keys. And then I feel it – a sudden niggling sensation that tugs my attention away from the words I’m typing. It’s a familiar feeling that usually strikes me this time of day, when my body hovers somewhere between exhaustion and the illusion of productivity.

It’s the urge to procrastinate.

I justify the need to lean back in my chair and update my Facebook status, because surely my friends in Bosnia need to know what I do at one in the morning. “Drinking coffee,” I type. “With French vanilla cream.” I type these words with reverence, as if they are my gift to the world – words of deep thought and enlightened knowledge, as my sleep deprived brain tells me.

Assuming that it is safe to wait another minute before I update my status and let my eager audience know that I have finished my coffee, I let my fingers glide over the keyboard and find their way to Google. Another blank rectangular box mocks me as I think of the words to fill it. I let my mind free associate letters and phrases before it settles on “Wordle.” I have a vague recollection of having heard it somewhere recently and type it in.

I look at the little screenshots of other Wordles on the site and silently seethe with envy, but the phrase “copyright infringement” prevents me from immediately creating my own. I look for text to paste across the public domains, but nothing intrigues. I float in a black cloud of despair until a small portion of my brain – a diminutive speck, really, not yet poisoned by caffeine overload or sleep deprivation – tells me I have a folder of original work.

With a smile wider than the Cheshire Cat’s, I paste half a chapter of my novel into the box and look on proudly as my computer screen fills with colourful words.

Satisfied that I have the most beautiful Wordle in the world, and my urge to procrastinate abated, I begin to think of the more practical applications of my Wordle besides bragging…

Since the Wordle was created from the first half of the first chapter of my novel, the number of times a word occurs could be associated with setting, mood and character. Usually the main character of a young adult novel is introduced in the first chapter, so the size of “Delphyne” or “Apollo” could suggest something about the importance of these characters.

Likewise, if I was going to use a Wordle as an anticipation exercise for a novel I may be teaching in class, I could ask the students to guess the events that may occur in the first chapter by piecing together some of the larger words in the novel. The students could connect their stories by the themes suggested by some of the words, in this case “sword,” “oracle” or “god.” The students could later compare their guesses to the actual chapter of the novel they will be studying – and in actuality, they are more likely to do this now that they are personally invested in the reading.

On that note, you are all welcome to guess the events of the first chapter as suggested by my Wordle. 😀

-Kiran Heer

(Click on the Wordle to see a larger image.)


Tags: Weblog Activities

6 responses so far ↓

  • mdry // Oct 1st 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Kiran, I love this post! I can definitely relate to the facebook procrastination zone. I am super impressed that your tired state actually resulted in something so interesting. Don’t you love when that happens?

    Anyways, I love the idea of using a wordle to introduce a novel. In my 366 class, my group is presenting this week on motivating students to read literature and we spent a lot of time trying to think of examples of how we would get students interested in required readings.

    I think this is a common phenomenon, but I know for me, I love to read and always have… But as soon as a teacher (or even a prof in university) assigned a “required” reading, all interest in reading suddenly vanished. The idea that this was something I HAD to read to learn something meant to me that CLEARLY this was going to be boring. It didn’t matter if it was in fact a very interesting work… It was assigned. Thus, one of my driving forces as an educator is to uncover a way to make my students interested in required readings.

    The best idea I have had so far is to come up with a “trailer” to show. I had obviously thought of it because I know how interested students are in media and visual stimulation, but I hadn’t really thought about it as an advertisement. What I really need to do is SELL my students on what we are going to read.

    Now that I have thought about it in this way, I am excited about the new ideas that I can explore. This wordle idea as a way to introduce and spark interest in the possible plot of a work is super exciting to me! I am now getting visions of ways that I can not only use Visual Media to interest students in something we are going to read, but also use the success (hopefully) of this idea to launch into a discussion of visual media and how it works. Were they really excited to read the book? Why did my “ad” work? Etc.

    Thanks for the new ideas!

  • dinouye // Oct 1st 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I totally agree with Melissa. Really cool idea to motivate students to read literature. And lovely writing.

  • kiranheer // Oct 2nd 2012 at 10:55 am

    I’m glad you guys liked this post…my sleep deprived brain doesn’t always come up with something so “readable.”

  • TMD // Oct 3rd 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I’d encourage anyone to take up Kiran’s challenge (last sentence of the post) as a contribution to the blog here in the comments. All deadlines are off on this one — let your imaginations run wild.

  • faran // Oct 4th 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Around the bend of a towering cliff rose a broken boat. In its shattered boards leaned a man with robust fingers. He studied the belly of the cliff as he ran his firm-skinned fingertips against the blistering wood. The sea would carry him, for Apollo trembles at no element. When his boat collapsed into the rocks in an instant and he leaped like an animal in its wildness, all he could muster was lust for an oracle.
    He scaled the side of the falling
    before any devil-she could horn
    a warning for beasts
    But soon before he reached the surface he was laid down. His bare chest a foot rest for Delphyne. The wretched creature had a mammal face. A long haired wolf, with most its hair plucked, the pink of its skin, the nose of a dragon. With her reptile eyes and slinking gait, Delphyne the protector melted his sword.

    Oracle then walked right into the street never looking either right or left. There is a festival in the park in front of her house. She was excited about the DJ on the left, but not too impressed about the way the children surrounded the BBQ. “Its just food after all,” she thought to herself. But, of course, she knew better. Oracle was pleased with the young’s manner of picking up trash with tongs. Though the sun had other plans for her body. No dragon game, no treasure hunt, not even a wet mouth could ground her in her own blood. The prophetess had now dreamed her end: She saw the prophet’s arm in the sky. She discerned God from gods. She beheld the eyes of Delphyne, as strong as the power of swamps.

    Apollo in the creed. The south hitting italian, with webbed digits she came. Inside her left head, Delphyne kept creature poison. While in her wound or skin, She landed immigrants. Bare chested Apollos in the rink can only yield to a delphyne with a poison head. Apollo, Apollo, won’t you treasure mortal passion for a stone skin.
    Wordle: apollo

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