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 http://www.visuwords.com/?word=$tag
    • Wordia– Search for a word and a person defines the word in a video. Students can upload their own videos defining the words. The url to paste is http://www.wordia.com/Search?query=$tag
    • Kidstube– Type in a search and find kid friendly links to videos, audio files, blogs, and images. The url to paste is http://www.kidstube.com/search.php?type=videos&keyword=$tag
    • National Geographic– Find videos, images, and articles on a variety of topics. The url to paste is http://www.nationalgeographic.com/search/?search=$tag
    • Neo K12– Educational videos and lessons for K-12 in math, science, and social studies. The url to paste is http://www.neok12.com/php/search.php?qry=$tag
    • History– Find videos, images, and articles on a variety of historical topics. The url to paste is http://www.history.com/search.do?searchText=$tag
    • Word Pics– Illustrated English vocabulary for adults learning by words on pictures. The url to paste is http://wordpic.com/?s=$tag
    • TED Talks– TED videos with inspirational speakers on a variety of topics. The url to paste is http://www.ted.com/search?q=$tag
    • Earth Touch– Videos about wildlife all over the world. The url to paste is http://www.earth-touch.com/search/#page=1&SearchString=$tag
    • WatchKnow– Videos that teach students about math, science, and other school subjects. The url to paste is http://www.watchknow.org/SearchResults.aspx?SearchText=$tag
    • School Tube– Student friendly videos on a variety of topics. The url to paste is http://www.schooltube.com/videosearch?q=$tag


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      Shelly Terrell

      Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


        • Pam,

          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!

      1. 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.


      2. 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!

      3. I like a lot Visuwords, but sometimes I’m using http://www.freethesaurus.org. 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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