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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.


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


FOUR Word Generation Programs Now Available!


The Original Interdisciplinary Word Generation

Grades 6-8

72 Weekly Units

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

more information

Word Generation ELEMENTARY

Interdisciplinary Units of Study for Grades 4 & 5

12 Two-week Units for Each Grade

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

more information

Science Generation

Science Curriculum with Academic Language Components for Grades 6-8

18 Units

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

more information

Social Studies Generation

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

18 Units

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

more information

Why should you consider using Word Generation at your school?

Word Generation builds reading comprehension by providing students with engaging texts incorporating academic vocabulary, opportunities for discussion and debate, and weekly expository writing.

Each unit introduces approximately 5–10 high-utility academic “focus words” and begins with an engaging text that introduces multiple perspectives on a high-interest topic. Topics range from “Who should decide what we eat?” in 4th grade, to “Should secret wiretapping be legal?” in middle school. Word Generation extends to include science and social studies units for middle school, going in-depth on topics such as whether Egyptian pharaohs were wise investors or wasteful spenders in social studies, and thinking about natural selection in science. Students read, discuss, debate, and write about each topic using the focus words.

Word Generation 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. 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.

Word Generation sets students on a path to college and career readiness by providing multiple perspectives on complex problems.

Multiple perspectives are provided in each Word Generation unit, 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.

Word Generation places heavy emphasis on 21st century learning goals, including academic language, argumentation, analytic reasoning, reading to find evidence, oral discussion, and writing.

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.

THE WORDGEN  TEAMDevelopment of Word Generation was led by Catherine Snow (Harvard University) through a SERP collaboration with the Boston Public Schools and other districts in Massachusetts and Maryland. Support for Word Generation was 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. The information provided does not represent views of the funders.

Strategic Education Research Partnership  •  1100 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1310  •  Washington, DC  20036

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Word Generation by SERP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.