Five Ways to Use Wordle to Teach the History of the Black Press

As print newspapers increasingly become less relevant in the day to day lives of young students, how can educators help them understand the instrumental role that the Black Press played in African Americans’ fight for civil rights?  The open source program Wordle provides innovative methods to engage student in the history of black newspapers.

Wordle allows students and instructors to create words clouds from text that is entered into the program.  It sifts through the words, organizing them into a pattern using the most commonly occurring words in the text.  The user can edit the shape, colors and font in the cloud.  If there are words that do not fit a desired pattern, users can remove them by right-clicking on the word. 

Black Press Wordle

There are numerous ways that educators at all levels might use Wordle to teach about the Black Press.  Here are five ways to get started:

1.  In anticipation of  a lesson on the Black Press, teachers can determine what students know by asking them to create a list of words that come to mind when they hear the phrase “Black Press” and typing them into Wordle.  Teachers can display the word cloud to students and use it as an introduction to the history of black newspapers.

2.  Another activity teachers might have students watch Soldiers Without Swords and develop their own Wordle individually or in small groups.  Based on what you have learned what words can be used to described the Black Press?

3.  Ask students to locate black newspapers from a particular time period in the Chronicling America site and types front-page headlines into Wordle to create word clouds.  What types of news did the Black Press cover?  What types of concerns did the many black communities have?

4.  Teachers can pair a Black Press word cloud with a reading on the history of black newspapers ask students to put the two texts into conversation with each other in a written response.  How does the Wordle help you better understand the argument the writer makes about the role of the Black Press?

5. Teachers can enter the titles of black newspapers into Wordle and create a word cloud similar to the one below.   Students can analyze the results, looking for patterns and relationships, which reveal the mission of the Black Press.  What do these titles tell us about the historic role of black newspapers?

For more ways to use Wordle in the Classroom see,

Forty-Six Interesting Ways* to Use Wordle in the Classroom