FOUR Word Generation Programs Now Available!


The Original Interdisciplinary Word Generation

Grades 6-8

72 Weekly Units Available

Each with five brief activities for ELA, math, science, and social studies related to a controversial topic

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Word Generation ELEMENTARY

Interdisciplinary Units of Study for Grades 4 & 5

12 two-week units for each grade available

Each unit organized around a central question and offers a variety of texts, word-learning activities, writing tasks, and discussion/debate opportunities

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Science Generation

Science Curriculum with Academic Language Components for Grades 6-8

18 Units Available

Approximately five full class sessions each, plus each unit contains supplementary materials for ELA, math, and social studies teachers

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Social Studies Generation

Social Studies Curriculum with Academic Language Components for Grades 6-8

18 Units Available

Approximately five full class sessions each, plus each unit contains supplementary materials for ELA, math, and science teachers

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Word Generation News

Bronx schools uses a special version of Science Generation to prepare students for inter-borough science fair.

Preview Beta Curriculum Packet


Building Vocabulary via Word Generation Helps NYC Students  Enhance their Debate Skills

Read article: Usable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Web Resource for Connecting Knowledge to Practice.

Includes Documentary Video produced by NYC’s Middle School Quality Initiative about Word Generation Saturday Debate Tournaments.


Cape Cod School District Implements Word Generation Programs Using iPads

The Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District is using apps such as PDF Expert to seamlessly integrate Word Generation into their students' studies in grades 4-8.


Thank you, Baltimore!

Baltimore City Public Schools is SERP's largest research partner in a major study of discussion, debate, and reading comprehension.

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Your Name Here!

Please let SERP know how Word Generation is working in your school or district. We would love to post your news here!

Why should you consider using Word Generation at your school?

It provides opportunities for perspective-taking, discussion, debate, and developing thoughtful arguments for writing.

Developed with the Boston Public Schools in 2007, SERP’s original Word Generation program includes weekly units about controversial topics each with brief lessons for middle school teachers in all academic subjects. SERP has also recently created extended units of study about a variety of social studies and science topics. Fourth and fifth grade units are now available as well.

Many more benefits described below:

  • Using Academic Vocabulary with Real Issues

    The interdisciplinary middle school 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.

  • Much More Than a Vocabulary Program

    Word Generation is

    • a research-based program for middle school students designed to teach academic vocabulary in language arts, math, science, and social studies classes.
    • a program that builds the reasoning and argumentation skills that are necessary for learning in all content areas.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Perspective Taking, Reasoning, and Argumentation

    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.

  • Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards

    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.

  • Other Benefits of Word Generation

    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.

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.

Strategic Education Research Partnership  •  1100 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1310  •  Washington, DC  20036  •   •  (202) 223-8555