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WebMentors Teacher Helpline: NYC Helpline: How To: Incorporate Technology in the Classroom

Using Wordle™ as a Pre-Writing Tool
Pamela AuCoin

Inspired by Brent Sackris' article on Wordle, I decided to try it out in the classroom, to incorporate a pre-reading strategy.

Every year, my government students are assigned brief excerpts from Plato's The Republic. Like many primary source texts, it is challenging, and more than a few give up before really trying.  How can we make essential works like The Republic more accessible? I have found Wordle to be an excellent way for students to prepare. Ideally, you will have a smartboard and/or LCD projector, so the whole class can experience this cloud computing exercise. However, students could also work in pairs or individually on desktop or laptop computers.


  1. Go to wordle.net
  2. Click "Create" to create your own word cloud.
  3. Copy and paste your text in the text box.*(See below for the original text used to create this word cloud).
  4. Click "Go" to create your word cloud
  5. By default, Wordle removes common English words, like "the." You may choose to click on the "Language" tab from the upper menu to include these words.

Here it is: a lovely word cloud created from the following text: "they are always fancying that by legislation they will make an end of frauds in contracts, and the other rascalities which I was mentioning, not knowing that they are in reality cutting off the heads of a hydra?" http://wordle.net/show/wrdl/1893983/Plato%3A_the_Legislative_Branch

From here, I have students identify words:

  1. First, they identify the words they can define;
  2. Next, they identify the words they cannot define. (You might choose to allow students to use dictionaries). 
  3. As a whole class, we share definitions of the words which were unclear.
  4. Then, students predict what the text will be about.

I was surprised at the accuracy of their predictions. Students had correctly guessed that the excerpt was about corruption within the government, so by the time they read the text, they already knew what the main ideas were. This is an empowering activity for students, since they are not only developing very high-level skills, but discover that literature need not be so intimidating. 

Do you have a comment or suggestion? E-mail Pamela


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