North Carolina History Digital Textbook Project

Two worlds: Educator's guide

By Pauline S. Johnson


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A wordsplash is a set of key terms or concepts related to a given concept, typically displayed in an interesting visual presentation. Used as a pre-reading strategy, wordsplash can tap into students’ prior knowledge about a topic before they encounter it in the classroom. This technique can help teachers become acquainted with what students already know before beginning a lesson, and can engage students by enabling them to contribute before the lesson gets off the ground. Wordsplash can also be used as a helpful summarizing device to help students synthesize information as they read or after they finish reading.

Example of a wordsplash -- an arrangement of key terms displayed visually around a central topic.

This example presents key terms associated with the Pleistocene Epoch. Illustration by Pauline S. Johnson. About the illustration

As a pre-reading strategy

To use as a pre-reading strategy, select a group of key terms from an assigned reading before students read it. Use the terms to create a wordsplash on a large piece of newsprint or an overhead transparency — put the central topic in the center, and “splash” the key terms around it. Project or display it in the classroom.

Put students into small groups, and have them generate complete sentences that explain the relationship they expect to find between each term and the central topic. After the statements have been created, have the students complete the assigned reading, pausing after each paragraph to compare their statements with the information in the reading. As the students encounter each term in the reading, have them modify their list of statements. For statements that are neither confirmed nor denied by the text, have students mark the statements with a question mark.

As a summarizing device

Before students begin the assigned reading, display the wordsplash in the classroom or pass out a copy to each student. As they read, have students write a sentence for each word, connecting it to the central topic.

Alternate versions

After students become more familiar with the technique, you may want to have them create their own wordsplashes as they read.

This technique is not limited to reading activities — wordsplash can also be used with lectures, demonstrations, or multimedia presentations.

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