Instead of teacher-driven vocabulary exercises, users choose any high-interest text as a springboard for learning.
We all know the unfortunate cycle: some people avoid reading because they have a poor vocabulary, and their vocabulary is poor because they avoid reading.
Rewordify.com, a free website, helps to break that non-reader cycle by empowering readers to understand more complex English in a new way. It allows people to copy-paste in any block of text (or enter the URL of almost any web page), and it then analyzes the text and finds all the hard words and phrases and simplifies them. The simplified text version is displayed in a specially-highlighted way that helps improve vocabulary.
This approach allows for faster understanding of a difficult text passage with a much-reduced need to consult a dictionary. Purists might scoff at the idea of de-emphasizing dictionary-based word research, but the site’s well-designed Teacher Demo (available from the home page) and its video (available from the “Settings” page) make the case that dictionaries dissuade many readers from reading because they provide confusing, misleading definitions that do not advance understanding of a difficult text. The site claims that by helping more people more quickly understand a much broader domain of writing, the amount of reading, and therefore comprehension, will ultimately increase for large populations of people.
The site allows for a novel approach to comprehending difficult language, and it’s called their Rewordifying Engine. This software, that’s running behind their website, can detect in any text over 35,000 difficult words and phrases, determine how these challenging words and phrases are used in context, and replace them with easier-to-understand alternatives that preserve part of speech and verb tense.
Smart Highlighting and other features
A key part of this “rewordifying” is what they call Smart Highlighting, which highlights all the simplified words and phrases. When a user hovers a mouse (or taps a finger, for tablets), he or she sees the original harder word to learn what it means. The site allows user to change the way the highlighting works. One option, for example, is called Two-Column mode, which shows the original harder language on the left, and the easier version on the right:
“Here is another plethora of abstruse jargon that promises to nonplus the multitudes.”
“Here is another huge amount of difficult and confusing language (used by experts) that promises to confuse the large numbers of people.”
The translation from difficult to easy language was impressive, and it was helpful to have the words highlighted in a consistent way. Right under the easier text are buttons that let users get an easy-to-use set of on-screen flash cards to help them learn the hard words, and that let them take a quiz that shows them in a colorful way which words they know and which they need to still work on.
The site has a “Read” link that contains a huge list of classic literature, from Poe to Twain to Shakespeare, all of which have been rewordified, and that can be Smart Highlighted in lots of different ways to help users learn with the visual style they prefer. The possibility of a new way to understand Beowulf should gladden the hearts of high school students everywhere.
Rewordify.com makes it easy to learn and start using: The Teacher Demo on the home page which I mentioned before is truly impressive. It takes you through, step by step, how to use the site, and shows off what it can do, including making vocabulary quizzes and activities for any text that’s copy-pasted in. The user Demo (the button says “View a demo” on the home page) is a shorter step-by-step showing-off of the site’s features that should make a lot of readers happy.
The site is completely free. There is nothing to purchase, sign up for, order, download, or install. Anyone can start using it now on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, and it doesn’t display any ads, which is highly desirable for a classroom environment. While I was using the site, it worked quickly, and had buttons and controls that were intuitively easy. The site strikes a good balance between helping users read and learn, and helping educators foster learning in the classroom.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
The Necessity of the Connected Text – Why Just Switching to E-reading Isn’t Enough
Socrative – A 21st Century Way to Assess
A Few Free Lesson Planning and Classroom Resources for Teachers