Word Cloud Warm Up

word cloud containing the words balance, debit, credit, overdraft, statement, withdraw, interest, transaction, transfer, and deposit.

Thanks to Ami Christensen, US English Language Fellow in Bangkok, Thailand, for sharing this activity!

Purpose:  To help learners review vocabulary in a creative and highly visual manner while they practice listening to one another.

Preparation Time:  About 15 minutes  to create a word cloud example and write some example definitions

Materials Needed:  Computers with printing access; if not available, paper and pens (the activity is more fun when students can use colored pencils or markers)


  1. Ask students to choose 10 vocabulary words that they are currently working on in their class. They should choose the words that they find to be the most important. For example, if the class is working on a banking and finances unit, a student might choose the following words: balance, debit, credit, overdraft, statement, withdraw, interest, transaction, transfer, and deposit.   
  2. Using computers, have students use a simple app to create a word cloud using the vocabulary words.  For this activity, it is important that students choose a simple word cloud generator that is not based on word frequency.  See below for links to two simple word cloud generators. After the word cloud is complete, ask the students to save and print it.

If the class doesn’t have access to computers and/or printers, they can create their own word clouds by writing them on a sheet of paper. If using this approach, make sure to show the students some examples of simple computer-generated word clouds so that they have a clear idea of what a word cloud is. Encourage students to be creative with the design of their word clouds.

  1. Working independently or with a partner, have students write a simple definition in their own words, a synonym, or example sentence for each word. 
  2. Pair the students up into partners, and ask them to exchange their word clouds.
  3. One student reads the definitions, synonyms, or examples that they generated. Their partner looks at the accompanying word cloud and points to the words that match what they hear.
  4. Partners switch roles and  repeat the activity.

Variations: This activity can also be done as a whole class warm up using one teacher-generated word cloud. The teacher creates the word cloud ahead of time, and projects it on the whiteboard for the class. The teacher reads off definitions, synonyms, or examples that they come up with and students race to identify the matching word. Alternatively, the teacher can assign each student a word and have the students write a definition, then take turns reading them out loud while the rest of the class races to identify the matching word.

Links to Simple Online Word Cloud Generators


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It's wonderful to hear that you're finding the activities helpful!