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Plant a question and watch the answers grow - Using ‘AnswerGarden’ in the online classroom

by Gayle McIntyre | 09 Oct 2020
Resource Description:

This activity provides a fun and interactive way for students to speak or write about classmates’ opinions or interests. It is particularly useful for students to practice using quantifiers, adverbs of frequency or percentages or fractions in their communication.

Audience: Elementary, Secondary, University
Audience Language Proficiency: Advanced, Beginner, Intermediate
Duration: 25-90 minutes
Materials and Technology:
  • Internet
  • A virtual classroom that has some way to share a URL such as the chat box in Zoom
Objective(s): Students will practice writing a survey question, collecting responses using and reporting results.
Outcome(s): Students will be able to gather data and incorporate previously learned quantifiers, adverbs of frequency or simple fractions or percentages when reporting on classmates’ interests.

Suggested Procedure

One or two classes prior to the answergarden class

  • Teach the target structure students will use when reporting survey results, e.g. quantifiers, adverbs of frequency, reporting using fractions or percentages.

Before answer garden class

  • Prepare an engaging survey question for students to answer during a virtual class. This question will serve to model how the tool will be used and to create some excitement among the students.  (A question I once used with adults was “What activity would you pursue if you were guaranteed not to fail?” The answers ranged from opening a diner, to performing an oboe concerto).
  • Go to
  • choose ‘create answergarden’
  • under ‘topic’ write the question
  • scroll to the bottom and select ‘create’
  • your answer garden will appear. Every answer garden has a unique URL (https://answergarden then a series of numbers)
  • Copy this unique URL for this answer garden and post it in the best place for your students to access it. I use the chat room in Zoom class.
  • Familiarize yourself with answergarden and try a practice question to see how the answers will look once generated.
  • Decide the best way to incorporate this tool with your class. Will students decide on questions on the spot, alone, or in pairs, in breakout rooms or for homework for next class etc.

During answer garden class

  • Review target structures
  • Model the procedure by posting the unique URL for your engaging question in a chat box or other location accessible by students.
  • Students go to the site and start submitting their answers.
  • Model how to see how many students have given each answer (by hovering the cursor over the word) and explain that as in word clouds in general, the more popular an answer is, the bigger it grows.
  • Have fun
  • Explain how you want students to use this tool.
Activity Description: is a very simple online tool which uses real time class participation to instantly create and update a word cloud. It can be used in different ways such as brainstorming with the class, getting immediate feedback about a lesson or test at the end of class, as an icebreaker for students to learn a little about each other, or as a fun way to introduce and scaffold other learning objectives such as incorporating the use of quantifiers, adverbs of frequency, fractions or decimals when speaking or writing.

As students respond online in real time to a question posed by the teacher or classmates, a word cloud is automatically created and constantly updated. An answer that is submitted the most often becomes the biggest in the word cloud. As participants hover their cursor over a word they can see how many people responded with that answer. From this information, they can form sentences such as “most students prefer...” or “10 out of 15 students responded that...” etc.

This activity and online tool can be adapted to suit students at almost any level. For example, students at lower ESL levels can be encouraged to write simple questions together as a class that then all classmates answer on  An example of a simple question may be “What is your favorite color?”  They answer and when they view the results they can be encouraged to report on the results using previously learned quantifiers such as ‘most’, ‘some’, ‘a few’, ‘only one’ ‘only two’ etc. They can write sentences or report orally to the class that most people love red, some people like blue and one person likes yellow.  Intermediate and advanced students may work in pairs or teams in online breakout rooms. An intermediate group may decide to write a question that ask about classmates’ preferred apps or social media. Another group may write a question about how much time classmates spend on social media.  In this case they may be required to use adverbs of frequency when reporting on results. A more advanced ESL class may be encouraged to write questions related to more complex topics such as current affairs. When reporting results they may be required to use more complex structures such as “The results of my survey indicate that 13 out of 21 students believe unemployment to be the biggest campaign issue facing politicians in the upcoming election.”

Useful Links: