Monday, March 12, 2012


What is WordSift?

WordSift is a useful website to support not only English language learners but also learners of other languages. This tool allows teachers to insert text and play with the results. It is a bit similar to Wordle which makes word clouds out of a text. WordSift, on the other hand, shows the 50 most used words of the inserted text .

How can teachers use WordSift?

Based on the 50 most used words of a text, teachers may sort the words into several options provided, which are, 'common to rare',  'rare to common', 'A to Z', and 'Z to A'.  I have provided here with an example of a text which has been sifted using Wordsift. The text is called 'The Dragon Rock' by Ellena Ashley.

The words appear in a bigger font size shows the frequency of the words appear in the text. Therefore, in 'The Dragon Rock', it shows that the word 'Dragon' appears the most frequent in the text followed by 'child', and 'water'. The smallest word font shows the less frequent the word appears in the passage. The words are also sorted from A to Z.

The image below shows the words are sorted by clicking on 'Common to Rare' in which the words are arranged based on the how common they appear in the English language. Therefore, as teachers, we may need to introduce the words which are less common if we were to use the text with our students.

Another interesting thing about this tool is that it allows students or teachers to check on the meaning of the words. Once they click the word, at the slight bottom right of the page, the Visual Thesaurus will show other words that are related to the word searched, including the synonyms and antonyms. The tool also shows students where the word is found in the texts, hence, the students may see how the word is used. Other than that, WordSift will also automatically search for related pictures of the word 'dragon' or any words which are clicked. 

For more information on how to use WordSift, you can watch the video by Russell Stannard.

I believe this tool is suitable for students of all levels of English in which teachers may choose suitable text to be sifted based on the students level and age. Teachers may use this tool for reading lesson in which long texts can be sifted for previewing text stage. Teachers may get the students to throw some ideas on what the text is about and guess the story. Students may also be asked to work in pairs and write a short synopsis of what they think the story might be.

Teachers may also use WordSift to introduce vocabulary to students in which students may be asked to discuss the relation of the words in Visual Thesaurus. Another activity that can be done in class could be asking students in pairs of in groups to decide on which pictures/images from the Google Image Search that best describe the particular words in the text.

In addition, teachers may ask students to work in groups to construct new sentences in the Workspace. Teachers can make it as a competition in which groups which write the most sentences win. It gives a variety to writing lesson. Not just the words can be dragged into the Workspace, but also the images from Google Image Search.

What I like about WordSift...

  1. Yes, it's FREE and we just love it when things are free!
  2. It makes READING texts FUN!!
  3. Useful to encourage and accommodate students' Multiple Intelligence. Some students may be good in visual rather than just words. 
  4. Introduce new vocabulary sets to students.
  5. Can cater students with different levels of English.
  6. Can also be used for teaching other languages.
  7. May help students in writing because there are examples of how to use the words which are taken from the text sifted.
  8. A variety in writing lesson (Workspace.)
  9. Encourage creativity.
  10. Shows only 50 words.
What I dislike about WordSift...
  1. The word clouds cannot be printed. You have to print the whole page.
  2. Too many parts in the webpage. Students can be distracted as too much information is cramped in the page.
  3. Facilities. Schools or students who do not have access to computers and the internet will not be able to use the tool.
  4. The images from Google search may not be filtered. Teachers have no control.
  5. Cannot control the maximum number of words appear in the clouds.
  6. The word clouds appear cannot be edited in terms of font or layout


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