Looking at Poetry Through Wordle

I know, late to the party, but I wanted to do a little more than say “Hey, wordle is pretty cool and stuff. You should use it.” So here’s how I’d use Wordle to attack poetry.

Take a few poems from the poets you cover, mash a few of the poems together, and create a wordle for each poet. Then have the students match them to the author.

The Stevens one is pretty obvious with blackbird standing out that way but the other two will require a little more attention. The key is to make them identifiable but difficult. Too easy and it’s useless. If you presented these as problems to be solved at the beginning of the unit then you’d be able to get some interesting conversation going1. I’d post them on the wall as big posters and maybe let people put their votes as to the author under each. Then they move their vote each day as students find out more about the poet and their works.

So for Wallace Stevens I picked the poems available in Wikipedia – “Anecdote of the Jar,” “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “Sunday Morning,” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

And I did a few Richard Hugo poems as well- “Death Of The Kapowsin Tavern,” “Degrees Of Gray In Philipsburg,” “Farmer, Dying,” “The Church On Comiaken Hill,” and “Underwater Autumn 2.”

And finally, some Marianne Moore poems.

Maybe you end it with the students creating their own wordle based on their favorite works from their favorite poet. They pick and justify the font, orientation etc. of the wordle they create for the poet based on his/her personality3. If you’re looking for a paper, the student could also explain how the wordle accurately/inaccurately portrayed the poets work.

Alternately, it’s not a bad assessment. You can have students ID the author based on wordles you create showing their understanding of the poets and the vocabulary and subjects they tended towards. Or go to the next level and have students hand create4 wordles for poets explaining how and why they made certain decisions.


1 Especially if you were say looking at poets from the same genre as opposed to my odd personal selections.

2 Believe it or not, I did my first web project on Richard Hugo in grad school during a brief flirtation with a Masters in Liberal Arts which ended when the free classes did.

3 Hugo’s wordle should have had pretty depressed, muted colors for instance.

4 adding the words they see as representative as opposed to creating them by cutting and pasting poems

Comments on this post

  1. Sheri Fresonke Harper said on October 29, 2008 at 3:04 am

    They make an interesting visual display that’s quite evocative and looks fun to do.
    🙂 Sheri

  2. Eric said on November 2, 2008 at 6:27 am

    I’m continually amazed at the creativity that shows up as open source or free applications. Maybe you were late to the party but I was even later. I think I will run one of my daughter’s short stories through this and see what comes up. Maybe some inspirational poems as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Raymond Bonnell said on January 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I just discovered Wordle myself (talk about LATE to the party). Am using it to examine Poetry and Short Stories in my English class and Historical Documents in my Social Studies classes. Love it!

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