“Things We Love” Word Clouds

WEC Technology Lesson:

“Things We Love” Word Clouds

word cloud In time for Valentine’s Day, engage your students in the language lab by creating “word clouds” (pictured above) on the theme of “Things We Love.” Encourage students to post their clouds to the WEC Facebook page, or poll your students to create a word cloud representative of the whole class to post on social media!

 Time. 1 hour in the language lab.

 Objectives. Students will be able to:

  • Identify the difference in meaning between like and love.
  • Write sentences at their ability level describing things they like and love.
  • Generate and edit their own word cloud.
  • Compare the differences and similarities between what their classmates like and love.

Lesson Plan.

Time Activity
10 minutes Introduction

·         As a class, brainstorm with students things that they like and love. Keep a running list on the board (later this will help you create a word cloud representative of the entire class).

·         For more advanced students, you can ask: What’s the difference in English between “like” and “love”? How do English speakers use “love” for more than just romantic feelings?

15 minutes Independent Practice

·         In a Word document, students start writing sentences of things they love. At the lower levels, students can write short sentences or even just lists of things they love/like. Since the word cloud is generated based on word frequency, the sentences do not have to be complete. At a more advanced level, students can write full sentences that include why they like/love those things.

·         *Best practice: students should not write their word cloud sentences directly on the word cloud website. Once they generate the cloud, their original sentences will be lost, which makes it impossible to go back and modify the text for typos or content. By typing their sentences in Word, students can copy/paste the text onto the site and made edits as necessary.

15 minutes Design your own Word Cloud

·         Once students have their text, they copy (control + c) and paste (control + v) it into the word cloud app. I recommend using http://www.abcya.com/search.htm?text=cloud. Teachers can demonstrate how to do this using the list that the class brainstormed earlier in the lesson.

·         Teachers can also demonstrate how to personalize the color, font, and orientation of the cloud.  For more advanced students, the teachers can explain that the computer program uses the frequency of use of the words to determine the size of the words. Students can trick the word cloud generator to make words bigger by typing a word multiple times (like “soccer soccer soccer”) into the site.

·         *Note: the most popular word cloud site is Wordle.  However, you need Java to run Wordle, and neither the iPads nor the Language Lab computers have Java. For a list of alternate word cloud sites that will work in the language lab, see:  http://www.edudemic.com/9-word-cloud-generators-that-arent-wordle/

15 minutes Gallery Walk

·         Once all of the students have a word cloud displaying, the class can circulate to view the clouds of their colleagues.

·         Questions for discussion:

·         What things do most classmates like?

·         What are the differences in what people in this class like?

·         How can you use word clouds as a study tool or vocabulary builder?

5 minutes Posting your cloud

·         After your class brainstorms the list of things they like, create a word cloud representative of the class. You can save your word cloud as a JPEG on the desktop of the computer. Then email it as an attachment to Lee (lgriffith@washingtonenglish.org) for posting on the WEC Facebook page!

Posted in Class Presentations, Teaching Tips & Resources, Technology, Vocabulary Activities | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


by Andrei Shafourin

A previous post summarized some great ways to use technology in the classroom. In this one, let’s focus on how modern technology can enrich the learning process for your students outside the classroom.


Learning and retaining new vocabulary is always a challenge. It is, of course, important to encourage students to keep a vocabulary notebook to keep a record of new words and expressions. So is reviewing them by making up example sentences. But let’s admit it, those are hardly the most exciting activities. Technology can compensate for that somewhat by making it a little more interactive and a little more targeted.

Using a website like quizlet.com to learn new vocabulary can be one way. Doing a search on the website will show that it has word lists already put together for many ESOL textbooks. Not all of them unfortunately, so you might have to make your own for your class. That may be a bit tricky in a multi-lingual class since you probably don’t speak all of the languages that are your students’ first languages. The solution to that could be to ask one student for each language in your class to volunteer to prepare the word list for their language for the current lesson. The great thing about that is once there is a word list for each lesson in the book, it doesn’t have to be done ever again for that textbook!

Word lists from Quizlet.com can be very easily imported to an app called Anymemo (anymemo.org). Now, the great thing about this app is that it uses a ‘spaced repetition’ algorithm to help the user get the most out of their vocabulary work and get over the toughest words and phrases. Another great thing is that it can use your phone’s speech synthesis capabilities to say those new words out loud as well, so your students can repeat and practice their pronunciation. This will engage the aural and motor memory, too. Anymemo is only available for Android smartphones, but there is an app for the iPhone called Anki App (www.ankiapp.com) that has the same functionality, including imports from Quizlet.com. It is also available for Android and Windows smartphones.

Those wordlist can also be used on the Quizlet website during language lab sessions.


Now, your students probably know about the Ventures Arcade online activities (http://www.cambridge.org/us/esl/venturesadulted/venturesarcade/) that they will have done in the language lab (if that’s the book you use). The activities are part of the Ventures course book package. Something else that’s excellent about them is that they can be accessed from any computer connected to the Internet, so students can use them at home to practice the material recently covered in the classroom. It’s interactive and engaging – and your students don’t need you there to correct or help! They get the results instantly unlike workbook activities (which are also important). Reminding the students at the end of each class that they could do this at home is a great idea. You could even put it up on the board as extra homework alongside the workbook pages.

If your students are struggling with a particular structure or grammar point you could even use online activities that are part of other courses but cover exactly the same (usually) grammar topics as the book you’re using. Below are some sources you could use for that:

OUP’s Headway Intermediate – https://elt.oup.com/student/headway/intermediate/?cc=ru&selLanguage=en&mode=hub

OUP’s Result Intermediate –


OUP’s New English File Intermediate –


All the other levels are also available.

Just as an example, you might select “Grammar” as the Language Point and “Show All” to see how many interactive activities are available for just these 3 courses. You’ll also see how easy it is to find something to practice the exact structure you may be teaching or reviewing this week.

Personally, I prefer sending those links to my students via email. They always appreciate the extra motivation from getting an email encouraging them to practice this week’s material in a different setting!

Another way I’ve used email with my students is to share a particularly interesting podcast I’ve come across that ties into what we’ve recently talked about in class.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that while reminding your students about all these activities is important, it should also always be clear to them that all they are is additional, extra materials. It is amazing that they manage to find time for English class in their busy lives. You don’t want to discourage them by overwhelming them with expectations to do more than they can. That said, however, there will often be some students who’ll be doing all of the online activities you email to them and always looking forward to getting the next portion!

Posted in Teaching Tips & Resources, Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

5 Tech Tips for Your Class at Washington English Center

by Lee Griffith

Need a few easy, fun ideas for incorporating technology in the classroom?  We have you covered!  See this list of fun ways to use laptops and iPads to support your students in meeting their learning goals!  Also, technology is a great way to fulfill the “C” in ACCESS Teaching Standards by keeping lessons “Centered on students.”

  1. Class poll

photo 3

Website: www.polleverywhere.com
Perfect for: Warm Up, Evaluation/Review
Prep time needed: less than 10 minutes

Suggested activities: This is a really fun website (teaching or not)!  The best part is it requires no sign up, and is easy to create polls; simply follow the tutorial on the homepage.  For a warm up exercise using unit 2 in Ventures, give each student an iPad (or in pairs).  Before class create a few questions you may ask students as an introduction to “School.”  For example, “What do you see at school?  What do you see in the classroom?”  Make the poll go live, give students the website to find on the iPad, and let them begin!  Or for day two of the lesson, use this to create a Word Cloud as a vocabulary review.

photo 2


  1. Twitter

photo 5

Website: www.twitter.com
Perfect for: Homework, review
Prep time needed: about 15 minutes to setup an account

Suggested activities: Last spring semester, class 1B had loads of fun playing on twitter as part of an end of unit review.  In the picture below you see an example of a conversation we had.  Simply coordinate with a staff member, co-teacher, friend, or anybody to ask your class some review questions.  Give your students iPads, have them sign in under the same account (which you will have to create before class), and have them answer the review questions.  Also, encourage the use of hashtags for more fun!  Take this a step further by coordinating with other classes, and have students tweet each other from similar levels.

photo 4

  1. Facebook

photo 1 (1)

Website: http://www.facebook.com
Perfect for:
Prep time needed: about 15 minutes to setup an account

Suggested activities: Like twitter, you will need to setup a Facebook account.  The majority of your students should have an account already.  Of the many, many things you can do on Facebook in class (check out comprehensive list here), I would recommend researching different news outlets or current events happening in class.  For example, October will feature Mexico as the “Country of the Month.”  Perhaps your students could find information by connecting to others, or by connecting to the Mexico page directly.  You could create a class page where you engage students throughout the week when they are not in class.  Post photos of the students while studying in class and you are guaranteed many likes!

photo 2 (1)photo

4. Film and Video on iPads


Perfect for: Practice and Expansion Activities
Prep time needed: less than 5 minutes

Suggested activities: Exposing students to natural English is important, but to help students with pronunciation consider using the camera function on the class set of iPads.  Simply have students work in pairs to model the pronunciation goal of your lesson for the day.  For classes using the Ventures series, every lesson A has a section directing students to “Talk with a partner.”  This is a great opportunity to have students record their conversations, listen to them, and compare their pronunciation to the listening activity preceding it.  Lessons A – E all have a conversation component; consider recording to address some pronunciation issues.


  1. Image search

photo 1

Website: www.google.com (or any search engine online)
Perfect for
: Presentation, Practice and Expansion Activities
Prep time needed: less than 5 minutes

Suggested activities: The best “go-to” tool when you just can’t explain that tough vocabulary word.  So don’t explain…SHOW!  For example, unit 7 of Ventures level 2 has students identify furniture.  Inevitably, someone will ask you about an obscure piece of furniture.  A quick google image search can solve most problems in class while following the old axiom: “Demonstrate, don’t explain.”  Or, try it in the reverse.  Give students iPads, then have them google search for images of furniture they may know of that is not in Ventures.  Have fun and be creative!

“Teacher, what is a lazy susan?”

photo 3 (1)


Posted in Teaching Tips & Resources, Technology, Washington English Center | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bridging the Gap: How One Program is helping Latin Americans in the D.C. Area

By: Ifeanyi Ezeh

As time passes and the United States continues to progress, it is inevitable that the country will become more diverse. One of the main ethnicities that is flowing into the United States are people of the Latino race. Many of them come into this country without a very good grasp of the English language. This makes it difficult for Latino immigrants to thrive or even survive in the United States. One program in Laurel, Maryland, the Washington English Center School at St. Mary of the Mills School, is looking to help immigrants get ahead in the U.S. by teaching the English language.  photo (1) (1)

It is about 6:50 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon at St. Mary of the Mills School. Many Latino adults are coming to take advantage of the ESL (English as a Second Language) classes offered here. Here program manager, Praneetha Arthur, along with a volunteer staff of teachers and tutors, aim to help immigrants in the Washington D.C. area by offering bi-weekly Adult ESL classes. They also offer weekly tutoring sessions for students who need extra help. The goal of this program is to help better the lives of these Latino immigrants in the United States by teaching them English. By doing this, it opens many doors for many of the immigrants to be successful.

Along with the students, many of the staff members also feel that they benefit from teaching in the program as well. Mark Gail, a veteran teacher in the program, stated that he did not see the volunteer work he did as work. In an interview he said, “The moment it feels like work I’ll stop doing it.” Kate Monagan, another veteran teacher, stated in an interview that she felt “called by God” to do the work. She also praised the diligence and tenacity of her students by saying, ”… they have jobs and work late hours but they still come to class…”. When I was asked about my experiences in the program and how it affected my goal of being a teacher I said that, ”It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be. But I still want to be a teacher.” I played the roles of both a tutor and an Educational Program Intern. Robert Goldschmidt, another veteran teacher, enjoyed seeing his students grasp concepts that they once found hard to comprehend. He said, “My favorite part is when students are able to understand something that they at first struggled with. There is then a nice sense of accomplishment for both students and teacher.”

The words of these teachers personify the goal of the program, to help teach adults English in an enjoyable way so that they can both survive and thrive in the United States. The program helps provide more opportunities for the students and a sense of accomplishment for the teachers and tutors.

Posted in Classroom Community | Leave a comment

Getting Out of the Classroom–A Scavenger Hunt Near Washington English Center

This summer, a few of our volunteer teachers decided to get creative with their classes, from field trips at local museums to scavenger hunts in our neighborhood. With the wonderful weather we’re having in DC, thinking outside the box (or classroom!) can give students new opportunities they otherwise might not have. Taking photographs is an excellent way to encourage students to slow down and observe their environment more closely [they also had to improve their iPad skills in the process]!

Students found a friendly neighborhood pet in need of a good ear scratching

Students found a friendly neighborhood pet in need of a good ear scratching

Students wandered amid the various embassies near the school

Students wandered amid the various embassies near the school

Students found great examples of art nearby

Students found great examples of art nearby

On August 5, 2014 Willia Hennigan, Katherine Stevens, Penny Ojeda and Deborah Katz sent groups of students with iPads to take pictures on specific routes around Washington English Center. They searched for historical Art Call Boxes, embassy flags, animals, sculptures, fountains, unusual signs and parks. Along their route, they photographed what they found to be significant items that fulfilled each category of the assignment. In the classroom before starting out, the students viewed some examples of the different categories from the neighborhood and discussed how they use photos in their lives. Seeing the Neighborhood around Washington English Center Through Photography was adapted from the July 28, 2012 Scavenger Hunt in the Neighborhood Blog Post https://letcteachers.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/scavenger-hunt-in-the-neighborhood-fun-outdoor-esl-activity/ and Compelling Conversations Free Chapters http://www.compellingconversations.com/sample-chapters-combined.php

Groups of 4 students each.

With your group discuss the following questions:

  1. “A picture is worth a thousand words”

Do you agree? Why or why not?

  1. Why do you think it is important to take photos?
  2. What types of pictures do you prefer to take- still or video?
  3. Do you consider photography an art form? Have you seen a photo exhibit?
  4. Do you have any favorite sites for taking pictures?
  5. Share with each other what you have noticed in the area around Washington English Center. Can you remember exact places and their names?
  6. How might photographs help?

Today we are taking a tour of the neighborhood.

There will be three pre assigned groups.

Each group will have a specific route to follow to find certain sights in the neighborhood.

Your goal is to take pictures using the IPad and then develop a slide presentation about your route when you return to class.

Rules to follow.

  1. Stay on your route.
  2. Return to WEC by 11:40. (one hour)
  3. Speak English.
  4. Don’t enter any buildings or yards. All items are visible from the street.
  5. Take a minimum of 12 photos of your route and be prepared to share with the class.
  6. Everyone in the group will be expected to participate in the presentation.
  7. Walk slowly along your route in order to be able to notice the fine details of your area. What is special about your area?

Each member of the group is responsible for a job. These can be switched midway.

  •  Photographer
  • Recorder of each photo taken and location
  • Map and route leader
  • Lookout and timekeeper


What might you find? You must find at least one item from 7 of the following categories for a total of 12 photographs.

 Each route has embassies or chanceries with flags flying in front.

  1. Each route has Art on Call
  2. Sculptures
  3. Animals
  4. Unusual signs
  5. Buildings named after famous people or cultural institutes
  6. Parks, steps, fountains, books, flowers
  7. Interesting fences or gates
  8. A special item of your own choosing

Record the photos taken and the address on the listing sheet provided.

Route 1 has the most embassies. See how many you can find.  What else is unusual about your area? Look for the largest sculpture and several Call boxes. See map at end.

R on California Street

L on Connecticut Avenue

L on Wyoming Avenue

R on 24th Street

R on Kalorama

R on 23rd Street

L on California Street

Return to WEC


What might you find? You must find at least one item from 7 of the following categories for a total of 12 photographs.


  1. Each route has embassies or chanceries with flags flying in front.
  2. Each route has Art on Call See map at end with listings of Call boxes.
  3. Sculptures
  4. Animals
  5. Unusual signs
  6. Buildings named after famous people or cultural institutes
  7. Parks, steps, fountains, books, flowers
  8. Interesting fences or gates
  9. A special item of your own choosing

Record the photos taken and the address on the listing sheet provided.

Route 2 has several interesting animal sculptures, noted steps and a Friends Meeting House. Can you find them? What else is unusual about your area?

R on California Street

R on Phelps

L on S Street

R on Phelps

R on Florida

R on Decatur

R on 22nd Street

Up steps

L on S Street

R on 23rd Street

R on California

Return to WEC


What might you find? You must find at least one item from 7 of the following categories for a total of 12 photographs.

Each route has embassies or chanceries with flags flying in front.

  1. Each route has Art on Call See map at end with listings of Call boxes.
  2. Sculptures
  3. Animals
  4. Unusual signs
  5. Buildings named after famous people or cultural institutes
  6. Parks, steps, fountains, books, flowers
  7. Interesting fences or gates
  8. A special item of your own choosing

 Record the photos taken and the address on the listing sheet provided.

 Route 3 has a park with books, climbing equipment, a museum, a presidential house and much more. What else is unusual about your area? Are there stores?

R on California

R on Phelps

L on Leroy Street

R on Connecticut

R on Florida

R on S Street

Tour Mitchell Park

Continue on S Street

R on 24th Street

R on California

Return to WEC


For each photograph state what it is and the address.  What did you learn about your route? Be ready to share.


























Posted in Washington English Center | 1 Comment