Join us for the WordGen institute at Harvard this summer!


Please DONATE to SERP (the nice people who develop and distribute these public materials).

Science Generation (SciGen)

Grades 6-8

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 units 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 units, 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 topic, build relevant knowledge, and provide opportunities to encounter the new academic vocabulary in new semantic contexts.

18 One-week Science Units Available

  • Scientific Thinking

    6.1 Did you notice that?

    In this unit, students learn about making both qualitative and quantitative observations and about the difference between an observation and an inference. Students have a hands-on opportunity to practice making observations and inferences during a lab activity.

    6.2 Why do we make models?

    In this unit, students explore why scientists and other professionals use models when trying to solve problems or create solutions. Students make their own model of a watershed using a landform map and answer a writing prompt about building a model before making a town decision to build a dam.

    6.3 Can you really claim that?

    This unit teaches students about making plausible claims in science. Students learn how to examine claims by performing an experiment about skateboarding. Students conduct multiple trials and graph their results before drawing conclusions.

  • Preparing a Scientific Investigation

    Note: Bronx schools in NYC are using a special combination of SciGen units to prepare students for a yearly science fair.Download Science Fair Packet

    6.4 Is that really a fair test?

    This unit introduces students to what “fair” means in science and how to make a test fair. Students learn what variables are and how to control them, why multiple trials are used, and the importance of objective measurement.

    6.5 How do we test that idea?

    In this unit, students learn how to develop a scientific hypothesis, design and perform an experiment to test their hypothesis, and write about the data gathered.

    6.6 Ready to conduct your own investigation?

    This unit investigates the necessary components of a scientific experiment. Students think of their own testable question, conduct their experiment step by step, collect data, and present their findings to their peers. In addition to presenting, students are asked to share comments and questions with other groups.

  • Scientific Measurement

    7.1 So what exactly is a unit?

    This unit introduces students to some of the scientific terminology used for measurement and clarifies some of the misunderstandings that students have around important measurement vocabulary. Additionally, the unit reinforces the need for students to use precise language when recording data or writing lab reports. Students create an original measurement system and present their system to the class.

    7.2 Does the metric system measure up?

    This unit re-introduces students to the metric system, specifically emphasizing prefixes, abbreviations, and conversions. A cartoon prepares students for a lab activity on hand volume, followed by a writing prompt.

    7.3 The Power of Per

    This unit builds on students’ understanding of measurement and introduces the concepts of rate and ratio. Students learn how to calculate ratios and rates during a series of lab activities and conclude the unit with a writing prompt.

  • Life Science

    7.4 Populations in Balance

    This unit introduces students to fundamental ideas in ecology. Students learn about ecosystems and what happens during disturbances and recoveries, both natural and human induced. While simulating a town hall meeting, students discuss the many different opinions about a new community rule.

    7.5 Traits and Heredity

    This unit investigates the basic laws of heredity and introduces students to classical genetics. Students learn about Gregor Mendel’s experiments with patterns of inheritance and practice using the principles of dominant and recessive traits. Additionally, students learn about genetic diseases and write about whether or not potential parents should find out if they are carriers of these diseases.

    7.6 Thinking About Natural Selection

    In this unit, students learn about natural selection and adaptation. A series of activities leads students to investigate evolution and its relationship to a species’ fitness, selection, and adaptation.

  • Energy

    8.1 Potential and Kinetic Energy

    This unit introduces students to potential and kinetic energy. Students learn about the relationship between the two different factors that effect the energy in a system. Different activities build knowledge of momentum, velocity, acceleration, inertia, friction, and gravity and how all these concepts relate to one another.

    8.2 Work and Machines

    This unit introduces the topics of force, work, and machines. Students solidify an understanding of the relationship between these three terms. During a lab activity, students put together their own pulley systems.

    8.3 Delivering Power to the People

    This unit introduces students to energy transformation, conservation, and generation. Students learn about the effects of different types of energy-generation and how generators work. A group activity highlights the different perspectives on how the U.S. should generate electricity.

  • Matter

    8.4 Small, Smaller, Smallest

    This unit introduces students to the properties of matter. Students investigate atoms, elements, and basic chemical reactions between elements and compounds. During a lab activity, students get a chance to make their own chemical reaction.

    8.5 Mixtures and Phase Changes

    This unit introduces students to mixtures and phase changes. Students learn about concentration, density, and the difference between homogenous and heterogenous mixtures. Students learn real life applications of these topics by completing a writing exercise about building a desalination plant.

    8.6 Setting the Periodic Table

    This unit introduces students to the periodic table. Students learn that the periodic table is not just a list, but also a pattern-rich guide to the properties of the elements. Students investigate how to read and use the periodic table, and respond to a writing prompt about the discovery of a new element.

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  •  •  (202) 223-8555
Creative Commons License
Word Generation by SERP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.