Synchronous Word Clouds . . . At Last!

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Not too long ago I created an activity with my students where I asked them to write three types of literary genres they enjoy the most. The task involved writing three words on index cards. I then asked them to meet in groups to share their words. Group by group, they would come to the podium and add their words on  – adding each word repeatedly at times and only once other times. At the end, I would let WordleTM do its thing.  The result was a collective word cloud that would visualize the commonalities among everyone in my class. From there, we would create a list of titles to explore and read as a group. My class loved it!

Ever since that day, I had been waiting for a synchronous version to the original word cloud. Well, my wishes have been answered. At last! Now I can do this activity (and others) using AnswerGarden ( or Mentimeter (

These two applications allow users to add key words in response to a question. The best part is that answers are automatically randomized and sized depending on the input frequency. Better yet, the word cloud continuously updates as users add content. It’s fun. I love it.

Word Cloud Uses

There are many ways teachers can use these word cloud tools in the classroom.

  1. To find out how many languages students speak
  2. To brainstorm vocabulary
  3. To check spelling
  4. To find out students’ food preferences or allergies
  5. To check for understanding (e.g. types of transitions, word forms, listening comprehension)

. . . and the list goes on!

From Uses to Purpose

As with any tech tool used in the classroom, it should have a specific purpose. Hence, relevancy should ultimately outweigh the coolness of the tool. What do you do with the words you collect? Perhaps the smaller words in the word cloud signify a gap in students’ learning or knowledge base. Sometimes, it could simply mean that the majority wins, so on that particular day the preferred theme or topic is discussed in class.

Doing the Unexpected

I have had students thank me for exposing them to literature that they thought they didn’t like. Had I only focussed on what they already knew for this group, I would not have received this acknowledgement.

The Moral of the Story

Trying the tools is half the fun. For me it is all about how the tool enhances learning in a fun, engaging way.

What tool have you tried lately? Did it work the way you expect it? Reply below or go to Online Tool Survey to submit your answer.

Hi, my name is Cecilia. I love taking part in good brain awakening discussions. Blogging, I find, lends itself for that. I also believe in sharing my skills through scholarly practice, which is why I write regularly and have presented at several conferences, including TESL Ontario, TESL Toronto, CALL, and at Seneca College. My M.A. in applied linguistics along with my skills and experience have led me to my current position at Centennial College, where I teach English and ESL in the School of Advancement. I'm truly passionate about what I do: teaching, writing, creative expression, and helping my students (both L1 and L2) gain agency and take control of their own learning. Thank you for your readership and I look forward to reading and answering your comments.


6 thoughts on “Synchronous Word Clouds . . . At Last!”

  1. I just submitted to your online survey. What a neat way to engage us, Cecilia!

    1. Glad you liked it Tamsin. In the classroom, this type of brainstorming can motivate students to participate without the stress. The silent period becomes imprinted in the cloud, which we can snip and keep. Cheers!

  2. I have tried Wordle, but only with my own input. I like your idea of getting the students to contribute. I have just created a Padlet page (like a wiki – read only) where I’ll get the students to visit, do an exercise; read an article, download a PDF like Discover Canada, find information in the PDF and report back to class. I’m trying to get the students to do more autonomous learning activities. Thanks for your great ideas. I’ll have a look at the 2 programs you mentioned.

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