Rewordify is a new free site developed by Neil Goldman, a high school special education teacher in Illinois. He’s used his prior computer programming experience to build — from scratch — a tool that lets you copy and paste any text (or any type in any website), automatically identifies more challenging words, and then provides simplified words to replace them. Depending upon the settings you choose, those simplified words can replace the actual ones, be able to be seen with a click of the mouse, or be shown next to them. It seems extremely sophisticated, and I was surprised at the accuracy of the simplified word choices. The definition is not just shown, as some other sites do.
But that’s not all. The site also allows teachers to automatically created a number of learning activities related to the text that can be printed-out for students to complete.
I think Rewordify has a lot of potential — especially for Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners.
I do have two concerns that I’ve shared with Neil.
One, is that I wonder if it’s used with more advanced ELLs, could the ease of simplifying the text be used as a crutch by them to avoid looking for context clues?
Secondly, as regular readers of this blog know, I am not a big fan of automatically generated materials for students. They eliminate the possibility of teachers personalizing the exercises to emphasize what we want our students to learn. Neil is looking at that option to potentially include in a future site upgrade.
Even with those reservations, though, it’s an extraordinary site. As I mentioned earlier, I think you’ll be surprised, as I was, at its sophistication on a number of levels.
Here’s a helpful short video:
I’m adding Rewordify to The Best Websites For Intermediate Readers.
I’d saved Larry F’s page about rewordify to look at when I had a bit more time and I was reminded of it when David Read mentioned it on Google+, so I had a good look at it. I read the details about hoe it works and read parts of the White Paper, particularly the section on reading levels, which is an area I am very interested in.
My feeling is that rewordify may be useful for native speakers who know words such as ‘yell’, but it would have to be redesigned to help EFL/ESL learners, who would mostly need ‘shout’ as a simpler alternative. Changing ‘primped’ to ‘dressed and groomed’ wouldn’t help an intermediate EFL/ESL learner.
I think a second version for EFL/SESL students would be useful and it could be built on the same basic idea that hard words more than long sentences are the greatest obstacle to comprehension. The lists of words that typically cause problems to learners at different levels and simpler alternatives could be used as the engine and ideally students could choose to have a greater or smaller number of words replaced depending on how easy or difficult they found the passage to understand. If the original passage was level 10, say, they could choose to have all the words down to level 2 replaced if they were a low level student or just down to level 5 if they were intermediate.
Word lists like the ones used on Compleat Lexical Tutor could form the basis for the lists of the problem words for students at each level.
Your point is well taken, Chris. It is extraordinarily difficult to simplify text using a computer algorithm when the task of changing simpler words is at hand. This is because of the huge number of meanings for easier words. Example with the word “play”:
Loosen the rope and give it more play.
I want to play with my friends.
The play was a success last night.
I don’t want to play the fool again.
The team made a great play and won the game.
Every time I think I have a clever simplification for a simpler word, I see another sentence that is thrown into semantic disarray with that same simplification. I continue to work on making the Rewordifying Engine better and better, however. Thanks for your comment, and please use the contact page at rewordify.com if I can help in any way
Neil M. Goldman
Creator of Rewordify.com