Cool Sites What Works for English Language Learners

19 Word Cloud Resources, Tips, & Tools

Part of the Cool Sites series

Learning new vocabulary can be quite daunting for most students. We just have to look at the literacy rates to see how much children struggle with vocabulary. Rote learning of vocabulary does not really work. Experience has taught me students remember what they use and explore. Students need to have fun, engage with the material, and explore how their new knowledge works. Vocabulary lists are boring, but word clouds can be quite engaging. Therefore, I am sharing my favorite ways to help your students begin to explore new vocabulary through various word cloud tools, tips, and resources.


Wordle is one of the best ways to engage learners if you know how to use it well. The following links will help you:


  • Tech Tools & Pedagogy– Word Clouds- Marisa Constantinides’ post includes a comparison chart that lists the options for each of the following word cloud tools and shows you visual examples of each.
  • WordSift- clouds like Wordle with more options to sort words by frequency and alphabetically. Not as visually pleasing.
  • Word Mosaic- great to make word clouds that fit a shape like a circle, exclamation mark, or heart. You can embed this. With Wordle you have to take a screenshot.
  • Word it Out- similar to Wordle. You can embed this, change the cloud shape, and differentiate the font colors. This tool is easy to customize, but still I prefer Wordle.
  • Tagul- make word clouds that fit a shape but each word becomes a link to a website.

A few more alternatives include:

  • ABC ya!- Visually pleasing like Wordle. You can choose different fonts and font colors. You have to edit your text, because this catches all common words and symbols. You can get the most common words in your text, however, by using Vocab Grabber. I found out about this program from The Book Chook.
  • Clusty Cloud Creator- Type in a topic and this generates a word cloud of its own. You do not get to choose the text, but the words are links to searches of the terms.
  • Alpha Works- An IBM Java program that is supposed to be just like Wordle. You have to register with IBM, then download this. I believe this only works with PCs, because it did not work on my Mac. Here are the instructions, because getting the program is quite complicated, but may be worth the hassle if it works like Wordle.
  • Tweet Cloud- make word clouds from your tweets or from topics and hashtags.



  • You can make phrases in Wordle by using the ~ to group words. Click here for an example of how I did this with the #PTChat question, Do~Kids~Get~Too~Much~Homework.
  • Make specific words larger by simply repeating them.
  • My favorite Wordle trick is to overlay a Wordle on an image. I found out how to do this through Tim Ryland’s post, Wordles of Character. Simply, have students open up PowerPoint then insert an image. Next, paste the screen shots they took of their Wordles. Open the Picture Palette tool box and select Set Transparent Color. Click on the solid background color of the Wordle. Finally, make the size adjustments.
  • Below is what all these combined tricks looked like in a recent Wordle I did for #PTChat.

Picture 4

Tagul Tips

I use Tagul when I want to have each of the words in a cloud lead to a link with more information or to have them in a specific shape such as a heart, star, rectangle, or regular cloud. If a student has written a research paper, this may be a fun way to have them provide the links of several websites they discovered that lead to more information on a topic. You can also use this as a tag cloud for your blog like I did below. Go ahead click on any word and it will lead to one of my posts!

Two ways to customize links:

  • By default, Tagul will have the clickable links lead to Google search results of each word. In order to customize the links to go to a specific blog, go to the Core Options tab and replace the Google search link with your blog’s search link and at the end add /$tag. For my blog the link I used was$tag. I got this link by clicking on my search this blog box on my sidebar and pressing enter. Do this for your blog to get the search box link. You also can eliminate tags under the tag tab.
  • You can also customize the link of each word to whatever website you choose. This takes a little more time since there are 300 different tags. You do this by clicking the API mode box in the Core Options category and playing with the code.


Don’t have students memorize word lists, instead have students use one of these tools or tips.

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Which of these tips or tools can you see your students using?


  • February 14, 2010 - 05:55 | Permalink

    Shelly, I discovered a new Word Cloud maker today at ABCya ( I don’t think it has as many options as Wordle, but it DOES let you save your word cloud to your own computer.

    Also, I wrote a little tutorial on my blog for how I added small pictures to a wordle in photoshop. You can see the wordle here: and the tutorial here:

  • Marisa Pavan
    February 14, 2010 - 06:27 | Permalink

    Great tools, Shelly! Thanks for sharing!

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  • February 14, 2010 - 15:54 | Permalink

    Thanks for this informative post! Lots of good ideas and resources!

  • February 14, 2010 - 20:23 | Permalink

    I feel that you are going to cover all of the great tools out there and I will have nothing to blog about! :-) Thanks for the great information here. I think Wordle is a great tool and this post will be a great way to share the tool with my other teachers. As always, keep up the amazing work and posts. Thanks again.

    • February 16, 2010 - 18:03 | Permalink


      No fear! Your blog is amazing and I love reading it! Love your no tests challenge!

  • February 15, 2010 - 01:51 | Permalink

    Excllent ways for students to use and practice vocabulary. I also love Image Chef You can put the words in to shapes or letters/initials.

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  • February 15, 2010 - 07:14 | Permalink

    Hi Shelly, I liked Tagul when I saw it on Ozge’s blog, but I can’t get the different fonts. Colors, yes, but… I’ve already used up 2 of me free 10 clouds…

    Something to watch out for: I made a Tagul cloud for our Drupal system and the links out worked fine, but the back arrow didn’t take you back in, to our website. This is a Drupal problem, not a Tagul problem, but it was a good reminder that I need to test every app live.

    Wordle is pretty fail-safe. Love the presentation.

    Have a good day :)

  • 2sparkley
    February 15, 2010 - 16:38 | Permalink

    Thanks for the tips on tagul. Love both of these and can see so many uses. Always use wordle as a spelling exercise as it is a fun and creative way of chn learning their spelling words.

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  • February 15, 2010 - 20:58 | Permalink

    Thank you soooo very much! This post blew my mind away! I loved the ideas, and i’ll try some out. I specialy liked the one on reflecting on learning – What did you learn today? and the one using wordle to make a personalized gift! This post was a gift! Thank you!

    • February 16, 2010 - 18:04 | Permalink


      Thank you for dropping by! Thank you for the great comments and I am glad this was helpful.

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  • Cristina
    February 16, 2010 - 17:45 | Permalink

    Hi Shelly,

    Thank you for the post! I have however a question: I tried the PPT trick (with the Wordle pasted onto a slide) but I cannot find a Picture Toolbox!Can you help me?

    *By the way, I subscribed to your blog a week ago- I wish I had found it sooner!

  • February 17, 2010 - 09:52 | Permalink

    Hi shelly,

    I am writing a presenation about wordcloud editors and your post was extremely helpful.Thanks!
    I wonder if I could write phrases in tagul. I’d like to make a phrasal verb cloud.
    Thank you,
    Dani Lyra

    • February 28, 2010 - 12:27 | Permalink


      Unfortunately you can’t write phrases on Tagul and I haven’t found another service that really does this yet.

  • Cristina
    February 18, 2010 - 05:31 | Permalink

    Thank you, Shelly! I found it!

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  • March 26, 2011 - 21:43 | Permalink

    I knew about Wordle, but not all these other variations! These are great for writers–thanks so much.
    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  • June 9, 2011 - 17:12 | Permalink

    You might also be interested in, as well as allowing you to paste in text, it also generates clouds for twitter and facebook accounts.

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  • October 25, 2011 - 06:45 | Permalink

    Wordle is just awesome! You can easily create awesome word clouds and the application really gives you a lot of different options to design your word clouds. Really recommended. If you need a guide on how to use Wordle to create cool word clouds online for free you can check out my site about it –

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  • Ryan
    June 8, 2012 - 02:45 | Permalink

    Here’s an interesting twist on word clouds. Make your own using random words. . I’m sure you can come up with many more activities from this tool too.

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  • Jack Goossen
    January 6, 2014 - 16:31 | Permalink

    Hi Shelly,

    Great resource! You could also have a look at Phoetic. This is an iPhone / iPad app that can create very detailed (photo) word clouds. The results can even be stored as a .pdf file to print at very high resolutions. DISCLAIMER: I am the developer of Phoetic. Cheers!

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