Cool Sites What Works for English Language Learners

Vocabulary 2.0: 15 Tips, Tools, & Resources

Part of the Cool Sites series

In every subject students must acquire new vocabulary, which is often taught through rote memorization. How do we engage learners to engage with new vocabulary? In a previous post I shared with you 12 word cloud resources. Now, I want to share how I make vocabulary engaging by using various websites in conjunction with the word cloud tool, Tagul.

Tagul Video Tutorial

With Tagul you can:

  • create a word cloud by pasting in text or from a url.
  • choose to have your word in a variety of shapes such as a heart, star, rectangle, or cloud.
  • choose which specific website you would like to draw your links from for each of your tags.
    • By default, Tagul will have the clickable links lead to Google search results.
    • In order to customize the link to go to a specific website, replace the Google search link with the website’s search link and at the end add $tag.
    • To get the website’s search link, you type in a word in the search box and a link will show up that has an “=” sign. Copy the html address up to and including the equal sign. Paste this in the Tags’ Links Pattern box and add $tag at the end.

The following video tutorial will show you the process.

Lesson Example

This is a Tagul word cloud I used to help my students learn about the Winter Olympics. My adult English language learners click on any of the words in the cloud and find a video, image, or article related to that word. I used Nik Peachey’s tip on using Vocab Grabber to create my word list for the Winter Olympics to copy and paste into the text box instead of having the system grab words from a website. This lesson helped my students learn vocabulary within a specific context and choose which topic they wanted to explore. The students then brought in their findings to talk about in class. I embedded this in my class wiki for the students.

Vocabulary Resources

You can use a variety of websites to help your students define words aside from typical dictionaries. Here are some ideas and their search codes to copy and paste into the Tags’ Links Pattern box:

    • Visuwords- Enter words into the search box to find an interactive mindmap of the word with associations, synonyms, and definitions. The url to paste is$tag
    • Wordia- Search for a word and a person defines the word in a video. Students can upload their own videos defining the words. The url to paste is$tag
    • Kidstube- Type in a search and find kid friendly links to videos, audio files, blogs, and images. The url to paste is$tag
    • National Geographic- Find videos, images, and articles on a variety of topics. The url to paste is$tag
    • Neo K12- Educational videos and lessons for K-12 in math, science, and social studies. The url to paste is$tag
    • History- Find videos, images, and articles on a variety of historical topics. The url to paste is$tag
    • Word Pics- Illustrated English vocabulary for adults learning by words on pictures. The url to paste is$tag
    • TED Talks- TED videos with inspirational speakers on a variety of topics. The url to paste is$tag
    • Earth Touch- Videos about wildlife all over the world. The url to paste is$tag
    • WatchKnow- Videos that teach students about math, science, and other school subjects. The url to paste is$tag
    • School Tube- Student friendly videos on a variety of topics. The url to paste is$tag


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    • February 21, 2010 - 00:57 | Permalink

      Great post Shelley, with some inspiring ideas. I haven’t felt very successful using Tagul, but maybe I should go back to it & have another go.

      • February 21, 2010 - 10:45 | Permalink


        I didn’t feel excited either until I played with it. I love that each word is a link! I’ve been trying to find a way to make it more fun for students to explore our wiki!

    • Marisa Pavan
      February 21, 2010 - 06:25 | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing these valuable links and for your detailed instructions.

    • Eva Büyüksimkeşyan
      February 21, 2010 - 07:48 | Permalink

      Thanks Shelly, they all look and sound great. they will be very helpful. I haven’t tried tagul yet but looks so cool.I’ll give it a try as soon as possible.


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    • February 22, 2010 - 11:41 | Permalink

      When I first saw Tagul, I was largely unimpressed. To me it seemed like an unnecessarily complicated version of Wordle and I couldn’t envision using it with students. You have me convinced to take another look. I had no idea that it made such interactive Word clouds! The ability to create links within the word cloud to outside content is fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to detail this tool so that the rest of us could appreciate it for what it can do!

    • February 23, 2010 - 11:21 | Permalink

      Definitely going to take another look at Tagul! :)

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    • Helen Bredson
      May 30, 2011 - 12:41 | Permalink

      Thanks for the great list of tools! I’ll try to use them. By the way, as for languages, I also use other online tools, such as thesaurus dictionary.

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    • January 10, 2012 - 09:19 | Permalink

      I like a lot Visuwords, but sometimes I’m using The visual thesaurus is really good. You just click on word and find word popularity index, double click on selected word, loads new tree of thesaurus. Thanks, I’ve found a lot of resources here. :)

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