Word Generation is a supplementary curricular resource that offers a series of discussable dilemmas designed to promote students’ academic language and argumentation skills. Each of the 72 brief one-week units is focused around a social or civic dilemma designed to be of interest to young adolescents. Fifteen- to twenty-minute activities focused on the week’s dilemma take place in ELA, science, social studies, and math classes, and five target academic vocabulary words are incorporated into each of those activities. Students read, discuss, debate, and write about each weekly topic, using the newly taught vocabulary words. Word Generation creates the opportunity for students to become familiar with current issues and persistent dilemmas, while acquiring skills prioritized in the Common Core State Standards. The program is unique in its cross-disciplinary design, giving teachers of ELA, science, social studies, and math the chance to collaborate on the shared goal of helping students use academic language to articulate their thinking.
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The orginal Word Generation is a novel approach to vocabulary teaching and academic language development that comprises 15-20 minute daily activities organized in a five-day cycle. 
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Hear Dr. Catherine Snow talk about the orginal Word Generation Program.
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Introduction to Word Generation
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The original interdisciplinary program
THE TARGET VOCABULARY
a program that builds the reasoning and argumentation skills that are necessary for learning in all content areas.
a research-based program for middle school students designed to teach academic vocabulary in language arts, math, science, and social studies classes.
What is Word Generation?
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Word Generation began in 2007 as an innovative approach developed by SERP and Boston Public Schools. Soon thereafter, SERP began sharing the materials online and use of the program expanded to thousands of middle schools around the world. The original Word Generation program includes weekly units about controversial topics each with brief lessons for teachers in all academic subjects. In addition to these brief interdiscplinary units in the original program, SERP has now created extended units of study about a variety of social studies and science topics. These longer units are designed to develop content-area literacy. Fourth and fifth grade units are now available as well.  It’s all still downloadable for free when you register with SERP! Support for Word Generation provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Leon Lowenstein Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education through grant numbers R305A090555 and R305F100026.
a program that sets students on a path to college and career readiness by providing multiple perspectives on complex problems, and requiring that students sift through evidence that supports or contradicts particular perspectives.
a program that builds reading comprehension and content-area literacy by providing students with motivating text, opportunities for discussion and debate, and weekly expository writing.
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Word Generation began in 2007 as an innovative approach developed by SERP and Boston Public Schools. Soon thereafter, SERP began sharing the materials online and use of the program expanded to thousands of middle schools around the world. The original Word Generation program includes weekly units about controversial topics each with brief lessons for teachers in all academic subjects. In addition to these brief interdiscplinary units in the original program, SERP has now created extended units of study about a variety of social studies and science topics. These longer units are designed to develop content-area literacy. Fourth and fifth grade units are now available as well.  It’s all still downloadable for free when you register with SERP! Support for Word Generation provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Leon Lowenstein Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education through grant numbers R305A090555 and R305F100026.
What is Word Generation?
The original WORD GENERATION
The Word Generation program provides a well-structured opportunity to introduce the practices that have been elevated by the CCSS and NGSS. Though Word Generation preceded the CCSS, it was designed by preeminent researchers whose work influenced the development of the standards. Consequently, the program was designed from the start to maximize students’ opportunities to engage in the practices that promote higher order thinking and learning, a feature that distinguishes Word Generation from programs that are being retrofitted in an effort to “align” with the standards.
Word Generation began in 2007 as an innovative approach developed by SERP and Boston Public Schools. Soon thereafter, SERP began sharing the materials online and use of the program expanded to thousands of middle schools around the world. The original Word Generation program includes weekly units about controversial topics each with brief lessons for teachers in all academic subjects. In addition to these brief interdiscplinary units in the original program, SERP has now created extended units of study about a variety of social studies and science topics. These longer units are designed to develop content-area literacy. Fourth and fifth grade units are now available as well.  It’s all still downloadable for free when you register with SERP! Support for Word Generation provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Leon Lowenstein Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education through grant numbers R305A090555 and R305F100026.
Wiretapping, cyberbullying, handguns, and more! Browse Series 3
Censorship, cloning, junk food, and more! Browse Series 1
Professional Development Resources 
Word Generation, the Common Core State Standards. and the Next Generation Science Standards
Stem cell, nuclear power, corporal punishment and more! Browse Series 2
Vocabulary
The program consists of weekly units each of which introduces five high-utility target academic words embedded in articles about engaging topics. The articles summarize national or local controversies currently under debate and often in the news. The paragraphs are intended to help students join ongoing "national conversations" by sparking active examination and discussion of contemporary issues. The target words are relevant to a range of settings and subject areas. The cross-content focus on a small number of words each week enables students to understand the variety of ways in which words are used, and the multiple exposures to words provide ample opportunities for learners to develop a deeper understanding.
 The Word Generation program focuses on academic vocabulary, i.e., words that students are likely to encounter in textbooks and on tests, but not in spoken language. Interpret, prohibit, vary, function, and hypothesis are examples. Academic vocabulary includes (a) words that refer to thinking and communicating, like infer and deny, and (b) words that are common across subjects, but hold different meaning depending on the subject, such as element and factor. Both types of academic vocabulary are likely to cause problems with comprehension unless students have been taught how to deal with them.
Multiple perspectives are provided on each Word Generation topic, and students are provided with evidence that supports each perspective. One of the greatest developmental challenges for students is to understand the reasoning of others. Young students generally believe that ideas are right or wrong. The notion that there may be different perspectives on the cause of a war, and that evidence can help us decide which explanation is most defensible, is at the core of learning history. Similarly, the notion that our scientific knowledge about the world is based on evidence and reasoning, not on a truth handed down by brilliant people in white coats, is at the heart of understanding science. Students must have the opportunity and the support to develop these more complex understandings. The ability to take multiple perspectives is not only important for academic learning, however; it is also at the root of social and emotional learning. Students who know how to listen to conflicting perspectives, and argue respectfully about differences using evidence, have a better chance at successfully negotiating their way through the challenges of adolescence and into adulthood. Taking multiple perspectives is also at the core of successful argumentation. A good argument of course uses evidence in support of a position, but also uses evidence to counter alternative positions. Anticipating how someone who disagrees with you will think is crucial to successful argumentation.
Perspective Taking, Reasoning, and Argumentation
Core Program Elements
The target words are presented in the context of a paragraph that displays academic writing and that introduces a controversial topic of interest to adolescents. The program is meant to be implemented school-wide (or across an entire grade or team within a school). Teachers in different content areas display the target words in different contexts.
 Activities provided for the content-area teachers highlight authentic uses of the target words in their subject matter. These activities link to standards and skills expected of students within the various content areas (e.g., interpreting a bar graph on the incidence of obesity as a math activity, debating the censorship question as a social studies activity, analyzing the use of nonliteral language in hip-hop lyrics as an English Language Arts activity). 

The introductory paragraphs and supplementary activities introduce students to domains of world knowledge (global warming, the relationship between schooling and income, the relationship between obesity and diabetes) that are important for reading popular media with comprehension. Students might have little access to such domains otherwise.
 Students discuss or debate a new issue each week, supporting their position with evidence and responding to the reasoning of others. Debating with peers has been highly motivating for students in Word Generation classrooms. The program relies on students’ desire to do well in debate as a motive for careful reading of the text, to collect evidence with which to defend a position or rebut the contrary view. Students are typically more advanced in their verbal arguments than in their written arguments. Weekly writing tasks allow students to practice putting their arguments into written form, allowing the more challenging writing to be pulled along by the arguments articulated orally.
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Other Benefits of Word Generation
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The Word Generation program is being used by thousands of teachers in districts around the U.S.—and in 11 other countries. Feedback from users suggests that Word Generation can have benefits beyond those for which the program was designed. Because teachers participate across content areas, the introduction and implementation of the program requires groups of teachers who may not frequently have the opportunity to discuss instruction to work together and to hold each other accountable for supporting students' vocabulary and literacy development. The program therefore provides an opportunity to build collective efficacy at the school site. When the program is used across a middle school, principals can reinforce the vocabulary by using it in announcements. Some schools have created field trips or other activities as a result of engagement with Word Generation topics. Teachers report that trips to the local courthouse are more engaging when students ask questions about the death penalty or minimum sentencing. Some schools communicate with parents about Word Generation topics and vocabulary so that parents can discuss the issues with their children, and use the words themselves to reinforce learning.
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FridayEnglish-Language Arts
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Thinking Scientifically Science-related background information gives students more practice using different forms of the words. Fictional experiments reinforce scientific thinking. Students interpret data and draw conclusions.
SAMPLE WORD GENERATION SCHEDULEThe program is designed to be flexible enough to accomodate local variations; however, eachweek should begin with the weekly passage and end with the open-ended writing activity. Any variation within the week is optional and should be decided upon by the implementation team. Most importantly, all content-area teachers should be implementing at least one of these activities a week. 
WednesdayScience
Weekly Passage and Introduction to Focus Words Introduction of passage, target words, and a controversial topic that can support discussion and debate Comprehension questions to guide the class in checking understanding of the passage and to invite students to tap into their personal beliefs about the week's topic
MondayEnglish-Language Arts
Debating the Issue Use of academically productive talk to argue positions Identification of reasons and evidence Development of positions on issues
ThursdaySocial Studies
Problem of the Week Mathematics problems similar to standardized test items Use of some of the target words in math context Problem is related to weekly topic
TuesdayMath
Write About It Brief Writing Activity Prompt provided to inspire persuasive essay Opportunity to use target words in writing Evidence and reasoning included in essays in order to support position
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Site-based Professional Development and Coaching SERP’s team of experienced Word Generation coaches are available for on-site professional development and coaching. 
Boston (Cape Cod) Summer InstituteAugust 4th & 5th, 2014  Come join teachers from Boston and Cape Cod for their 2014 Summer Institute on Monday, August 4th and Tuesday August 5th at the Ocean's Edge Resort in Brewster (Cape Cod), MA.  While most participants will be from the Dennis-Yarmouth School District on Cape Cod, there are a limited number of spaces available for others interested in implementing Word Generation. The cost is $400 per person for the two-day institute. This includes the cost of breakfast and lunch and all materials. 
Baltimore Summer InstituteJuly 31 & August 1, 2014 Come join teachers from Baltimore City Public Schools for their 2014 Summer Institute on Thursday, July 31 and Friday August 1st at the Mount Washington Conference Center in Baltimore. While most participants will be from BCPS, there are a limited number of spaces available for others interested in implementing Word Generation. The cost is $400 per person for the two-day institute. This includes the cost of breakfast and lunch and all materials. 
1.10 Steroids: Substance abuse or an innocent boost for athletes?
1.06 Animal testing: Is it necessary?
1.18 Should drugs be legalized?
1.02 Where are the women in math and science?
1.14 Asthma: More than a medical problem?
1.22 Politics and privacy: What do we need to know about a candidate?
1.07 Censorship: Who should decide what young people read?
1.19 Global civilization: Progress or collapse?
1.03 What is an American?
1.15 Today’s news: Information or entertainment?
1.11 Mummies: Who owns the dead?
1.23 Explicit photos and cell phones: Innocent fun or illegal behavior?
1.08 Global warming: What should be done?
1.20 High school dropouts: Who’s to blame?
1.04 Cloning: Threat or opportunity?
1.16 Teen Smoking: Who is responsible?
1.12 Junk food: Should schools sell it? 
1.24 Dating Violence: Who is responsible?
1.09 School dress codes: Not strict enough?
1.05 Does rap music have a negative impact on youth?
1.17 Should military recruiters be allowed on high school campuses?
1.01 What is the purpose of school?
1.13 Is the death penalty justified?
Original Word Generation - SERIES 1 
1.21 Should victims’ families all receive the same compensation?
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2.22 Should students meet a grade requirement to participate in sports?
2.11 Should English be the official language of the United States?
2.18 Should drug companies advertise prescription drugs on television?
2.07 Should the government fund stem cell research?
2.14 Should American students be required to learn a second language?
2.03 Health issues in education: What is appropriate for our schools?
2.12 How should schools prevent bullying?
2.19 Should voting be compulsory in the United States?
2.08 Who is responsible for children’s health?
2.15 Are green technologies worth the investment?
2.04 Do professional athletes deserve multi-million dollar salaries?
2.23 Are after-school jobs helpful or harmful for students?
2.01 Should a standardized test be a high school graduation requirement?
2.20 Should there be amnesty for undocumented immigrants?
2.09 Nuclear power: Our energy future, or danger to society?
2.16 Violence and media: are ratings systems necessary?
2.05 Should students be paid to do well in school?
2.24 Should middle and high schools use academic tracking?
2.02 Should colleges use Affirmative Action?
2.21 Should corporal punishment be completely banned?
2.10 Should the Pledge of Allegiance say “one nation, under God”?
2.17 Should intelligent design be taught in school?
Original Word Generation - SERIES 2 
2.06 Title IX: Preventing discrimination against girls?
2.13 Should doctors be allowed to assist patients with suicide?
3.19 Should the use of transfats in foods be regulated?
3.12 Should single-gender education be an option for everyone?
3.05 Should secret wiretapping be legal?
3.06 When should the U.S. send troops to other countries?
3.20 Should handguns be illegal?
Original Word Generation - SERIES 3 
3.13 Should schools have a vocational track?
3.14 Are child actors exploited by the film and TV industry?
3.07 Should the government impose a mandatory year of service?
3.21 Should people be able to trademark phrases?
SERIES 3 also has supplementary support materialsavailable for English Language Learners...
3.22 As a parent, would you buy dolls that misrepresent your values?
3.15 Who should protect teens from online predators?
3.08 Should the government regulate genetic testing?
3.01 Should school be a place for debate?
3.23 Should shopping malls be allowed to institute teen curfews?
3.16 Should schools protect kids from cyberbullying?
3.09 Should the U.S. support genetically modified food?
3.02 Should our use of paper or plastic be regulated?
3.24 Should it be mandatory to get a license to be a parent?
3.17 Should marijuana be allowed as a medical treatment?
3.10 Is becoming a vegetarian a smart decision?
3.03 Do the benefits of renting a pet outweigh the potential harm?
3.18 How should doctors choose recipients for organ transplants?
3.11 Is an extended school day the right choice?
3.04 Should adoption information be kept private or made public?
These materials were developed as part of a major study calledCatalyzing Comprehension through Discussion and Debate.
Browse the topics and download samples of student units.
Hear Dr. Catherine Snow talk about the Social Studies Units.
Units 6.1 – 6.6Ancient Civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome Units 7.1 – 7.6Experiences of Two Children in War-torn Sudan Units 8.1 – 8.6Complex questions related to American Democracy
To extend students’ opportunities for developing academic language, discussion, and written argumentation skills using the same principles that inspired the original Word Generation program, we have developed three six-week social studies curricular sequences around topics commonly included in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade social studies content standards. These curricular materials can be used in place of the standard curriculum materials, or as a supplement.  They are fully aligned with the social-studies-specific literacy standards prescribed by the Common Core State Standards, providing opportunities to read, write, discuss, and build arguments about social studies topics.  Fifteen- to twenty-minute activities for use in ELA, math, and science classes are coordinated with each week of the social studies curriculum, so that the cross-disciplinary benefits of Word Generation can be exploited during use of the intensive social studies program. All the activities relate to the central question of the week, build relevant knowledge, and provide opportunities to encounter the new academic vocabulary in new semantic contexts.
Social Studies Units 
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6.6 Pompeii: An Irresponsible Decision?
7.5 How do I fit in?
6.1 Pharaohs: Oppressors or Great Leaders?
Social Studies Units for Middle School
7.6 Should we stay or should we return?
6.2 Pharaohs: Wise Investors or Wasteful Spenders?
7.1 What happens when your life is uprooted?
8.1 What are governments good for?
7.2 Who do you trust when your life is at stake?
8.2 Who gets to say what I need to know?
7.3 Where is home?
8.3 What is the value of your citizenship?
7.4 Who will we become?
6.3 Was it better to be an Athenian or a Spartan?
8.4 When is a crime not a crime?
6.4 Alexander: How great was he anyway?
8.5 Where is the justice in our justice system?
6.5 Roman Government: Whose Voice Counts?
8.6 How do we right the wrongs of the past?
Science Units
To extend students’ opportunities for developing academic language, discussion, and written argumentation skills using the same principles that inspired the original Word Generation program, we have developed science curricular around topics commonly taught to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. These curricular materials can be used in place of the standard curriculum materials, or as a supplement. They are fully aligned with the science-specific literacy standards prescribed by the Common Core State Standards, providing opportunities to read, write, discuss, and build arguments about basic questions in science.  Fifteen- to twenty-minute activities for use in ELA, math, and social studies classes are coordinated with each week of the science curriculum, so that the cross-disciplinary benefits of Word Generation can be exploited during use of the intensive science program. All the activities relate to the central question of the week, build relevant knowledge, and provide opportunities to encounter the new academic vocabulary in new semantic contexts.
Units 6.1 – 6.3Scientific Thinking Units 6.4 – 6.6Preparing a Scientific Investigation Units 7.1 – 7.3Measurement Units 7.4 – 7.6Life Science Units 8.1 – 8.3Energy Units 8.4 – 8.6Introductory Chemistry Concepts
Hear Dr. Catherine Snow talk about the Science Units.
6.2 Why do we make models?
8.4 Small, Smaller, Smallest?
7.2 Does the metric system measure up?
8.1 Potential and Kinetic Energy
7.3 The Power of Per
6.3 Can you really claim that?
8.5 Mixtures and Phase Changes
8.2 Work and Machines
7.4 Populations in Balance
6.4 Is that really a fair test?
Science Units for Middle School
8.6 Setting the Periodic Table
7.5 Traits and Heredity
6.5 How do we test that idea?
7.1 So what exactly is a unit?
6.1 Did you notice that?
8.3 Delivering Power to the People
7.6 Thinking About Natural Selection
6.6 Ready to conduct your own investigation?
Academic Language For All!
Supports for English Learners
Hear Dr. Catherine Snow talk about these supplemental materials.
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Supports for English Language Learners 
The original Word Generation materials are often used in classrooms serving many students who are current or former English Language learners. Such students may need extra supports to benefit fully from the program–more background knowledge about the topic, explanations of idioms or unusual expressions used in the text, help with complicated grammatical structures, extra opportunities to practice participation in discussion, and so on. Such supports have been developed, in collaboration with teachers using Word Generation with ELL students, for Series 3 of the original Word Generation topics.    If ELL and recently reclassified students are to meet the new Common Core State Standards, they need access to rich reading, writing, and discussion activities. They can participate with their English-only classmates if they have access to the kinds of specific and targeted support available here.  Furthermore, their teachers benefit from the guidance about what aspects of the texts and the tasks may be particularly puzzling to ELLs, so they can provide the help needed.
Download a sample unit of  Advancing Academic Language for All! Each unit supports ELLs in 5 ways: GETTING ORIENTEDEVIDENCE AND PERSPECTIVESANNOTATIONS FOR TEACHERSGENERATING WORDSDEVELOPING DISCUSSIONS All the Series 3 ELL supports are available through the website above or by visiting the main Word Generation Download Center (link to download center emailed to you when you register).
Dr. Claire WhiteWord Generation Author and Consultant
Hear Dr. Catherine Snow talk about Word Generation for 4th and 5th grades.
Word Generation for Grades 4 & 5
Browse 4th Grade Units
Implementation of the original Word Generation program in 6th-8th grades made clear that starting earlier to teach the academic language, discussion, argumentation and thinking skills focused on would help shrink the achievement gap and support students in meeting the Common Core State Standards.  Accordingly a 4th and a 5th grade Word Generation curriculum was developed.  Each consists of twelve two-week units. Each unit is organized around a central question and offering a variety of texts, word-learning activities, writing tasks, and discussion/debate opportunities.   Each of the twelve 4th and 5th grade units covers topics often included in social studies content standards as well as ELA literacy standards. They are designed to be used for 40-50 minutes per day for two weeks, with many small group as well as whole class activities. Students report a high level of engagement with the topics chosen, and a desire to learn more about them.
Browse 5th Grade Units
Hear Dr. Claire White offer an overview of a 4th grade unit.
4.05 Should everyone learn a second language?
4.11Why do we buy what we buy?
4.03Who should decide what we eat?
4.09When is it acceptable to break the rules?
Word Generation Units for 4th Grade
4.06 Who cares where we came from?
4.07Who gets to decide what’s safe?
4.12Why do we value what we value?
4.04Does arguing make you smarter? The case for school uniforms
4.10Why do we wear what we wear?
4.02Should students share responsibility for their behavior in school?
4.08 Should wild animals be adopted?
Check out Word Generation Action News! These newscasts launch each unit.
4.01 What is fair?
5.10 Do we need laws to regulate behavior?
5.04 What divides us and how can we resolve our differences?
5.08 Why do communities have different ideas about what brings happiness?
5.02 Should everyone be included?
5.06Do we need to sacrifice our freedom to protect our communities?
5.11 What kind of protections justify restricting our freedoms?
5.05 Why do we fight?
5.09 How can the words and ideas of one person impact a community?
5.03 Why should I care?
5.07 The power of power: What do people do to get it?
Word Generation Units for 5th Grade
5.12 Can we create a better society?
5.01 Where do I belong?
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Social Studies, Science, Fourth Grade, and Fifth Grade materials are not yet available to order as pre-printed booklets.  ALL Word Generation materials are available for free to teachers and schools to download and duplicate in any quantity. 
Original Word Generation Series 1, 2, and 3 are now available to order as pre-printed booklets.  Each booklet contains 12 units (half of a series). 
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One quick email to wordgen@serpinstitute.org will register you for free access to downloadable Word Generation materials. This includes compiled booklets, teacher editions, and full resolution files for printing.  Please register today!