Emily Lima

Pre-Reading Strategy


Example: “Jealousy” in Othello

Clustering is a brainstorming process similar to free association. It links ideas in a two-dimensional map, with connections based simply on student’s own mental associations. Clustering helps students activate prior knowledge as well as access new ideas and think about connections between ideas.

Steps to Clustering:

Identify a key “nucleus” word -- e.g., infinity, erosion, manifest destiny -- and write it on the board.

We are reading Shakespeare’s Othello. The nucleus word is “jealousy” and I write it on the board.

Everyone works separately at first, writing the nucleus word and circling it, in the center of a piece of paper. They think of words and ideas that connect with this word and write them around it, drawing circles around the words and connecting these with lines to t he nucleus word. As more connections occur, students jot them down, drawing lines to show which words they connect to. Students must work quickly and not reject any ideas they have.

Students create their “clusters” independently.

Allow sharing and discussion between students in pairs or among small groups. Then, construct a group cluster on the board, following the same pattern of associative thinking, as students offer words from their individual clusters.

Students break up into groups of four each. They discuss the different ideas in their clusters. Then, I draw a group cluster on the board, and we fill it in as a class.

Note: Return to the clustering chart that the class made once the reading is finished. Point out which ideas emerged as important in the reading and what the class has learned.

(Activity adapted from Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman’s Subjects Matter)