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Sample Weekly
Schedule

Sample Unit

Target
Vocabulary

Controversial
Topics

Supports for
English Learners

Monday

English/Language Arts

Weekly Passage and Using the Focus Words

Launch passage introducing a controversial topic that can support discussion and debate and focus words

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

TUESDAY

Math

Do the Math
Two Levels of Word Problems

Problems are related to weekly topic

Use of some of the target words in math context

WEDNESDAY

Science

Think Scientifically

Science-related background information gives students more practice using different forms of the words

Students interpret data and draw conclusions

THURSDAY

Social Studies

Debate the Issue

Identification of reasons and evidence

Development of positions on issues

Use of academically productive talk to argue positions

FRIDAY

English/Language Arts

Take a Stand

Prompt provided to inspire persuasive essay

Opportunity to use focus words in writing

Evidence and reasoning included in essays in order to support position

  • Weekly Passage (page 1 of 6)

  • Using the Focus Words (page 2 of 6)

  • Do the Math (page 3 of 6)

  • Think Scientifically (page 4 of 6)

  • Debate the Issue (page 5 of 6)

  • Take a Stand (page 6 of 6)

Why these words?

(Focus Words from Unit 1.01)Most of the focus words for each week are drawn from the Academic Word List (AWL), which was originally developed as a support for instruction to second language learners of English. Although there are many word lists that provide candidates for explicit teaching and implicit enrichment of student vocabulary, the Academic Word List has compiled well-organized sublists of word families that occur with frequency in academic texts across academic domains.

We believe that the subset of AWL words we have selected to use in our materials are particularly useful for students to know. Even if students have some prior exposure to some of these words, they may not understand them in novel contexts or abstract uses. For example, we have found that many students know only one meaning for the words substitute and suspend – a substitute teacher, and suspended from school. Yet these words are just two examples of high-frequency, high-importance, broadly useful words that deserve sustained attention so that they can be understood (and used) across a wider array of contexts. The focus words in Word Generation are widely used in academic discourse across disciplines, are at an appropriate challenge level for middle school students, and have properties that provide opportunities for teaching transferable word study strategies (e.g., polysemy, Greek/Latin roots, cognates, etc.).

Also included in the list of focus words are "topic-specific" words (if applicable). These are words that, while potentially useful in a variety of contexts, have particular applicability to the topic under discussion. Students cannot debate the content of the Pledge of Allegiance, for example, without a detailed understanding of what "allegiance" means, nor can they consider the risks associated with the use of nuclear power without a firm grasp of "contamination." These topic-specific words therefore facilitate thought and discussion.

  • Focus Words, Series 1

    Unit 1.01

    analyze

    factor

    function

    interpret

    structure

     

    Unit 1.02

    guideline

    mature

    ambiguous

    due

    status

     

    Unit 1.03

    complexity

    culture

    element

    resourceful

    tradition

     

    Unit 1.04

    design

    feature

    impact

    potential

    transfer

     

    Unit 1.05

    considerable

    contribute

    demonstrate

    sufficient

    valid

     

    Unit 1.06

    rely

    react

    alternative

    justify

    proportion

    Unit 1.07

    access

    civil

    despite

    integrate

    promote

     

    Unit 1.08

    attribute

    interest

    project

    relocate

    statistics

     

    Unit 1.09

    adjustment

    exposure

    modify

    monitor

    transition

     

    Unit 1.10

    fundamental

    alter

    conflicted

    substitute

    compound

     

    Unit 1.11

    diversity

    enhance

    migration

    presume

    reveal

     

    Unit 1.12

    acknowledge

    incidence

    incorporate

    initiative

    transport

    Unit 1.13

    advocate

    contrary

    prohibit

    release

    reverse

     

    Unit 1.14

    intervention

    phenomenon

    priority

    suspend

    transmit

     

    Unit 1.15

    abandon

    frivolous

    contemporary

    dramatic

    exploit

     

    Unit 1.16

    accumulation

    contradict

    exhibit

    inevitable

    manipulate

     

    Unit 1.17

    isolation

    confinement

    system

    mental

    solitary

     

    Unit 1.18

    decade

    incompatible

    temporarily

    unify

    violation

    Unit 1.19

    derogatory

    stereotype

    connotation

    slur

    stigmatize

     

    Unit 1.20

    convince

    enormous

    integrity

    persistent

    reluctant

     

    Unit 1.21

    financial

    compensation

    fund

    sum

    recover

     

    Unit 1.22

    candidate

    campaign

    ethics

    issue

    display

     

    Unit 1.23

    accountable

    disseminate

    constant

    inappropriate

    legal

     

    Unit 1.24

    assault

    abuse

    trigger

    distort

    physical

  • Focus Words, Series 2

    Unit 2.01

    standardized
    assess

    criteria

    correspond

    formulate

     

    Unit 2.02

    affirmative

    discrimination

    aspect
    retain

    relevant

     

    Unit 2.03

    capacity

    distribute

    method

    morality

    abstain

     

    Unit 2.04

    guarantee

    contrast

    parallel

    industry

    logical

     

    Unit 2.05

    implement

    motivate

    undertake

    incentive

    enable

     

    Unit 2.06

    inequity

    resources

    adequate

    illustrate

    disproportionate

    Unit 2.07

    embryo

    paralyzed

    theory

    investigate

    obtain

     

    Unit 2.08

    obesity

    multidimensional

    primary

    restrict

    emphasize

     

    Unit 2.09

    generate

    derive

    advantage

    consume

    contaminate

     

    Unit 2.10

    recite

    allegiance

    signify

    principle

    conclusion

     

    Unit 2.11

    specify

    establish

    cohesive

    constrain

    xenophobia

     

    Unit 2.12

    amend

    equity

    constitute

    resolve

    legislate

     

    Unit 2.13

    prevention

    critical

    pursue

    alter

    approach

     

    Unit 2.14

    economic

    multicultural

    attribute

    facilitate

    distinct

     

    Unit 2.15

    conserve

    renewable

    invest

    proceed

    maximize

     

    Unit 2.16

    rating

    ban

    interact

    occur

    complex

     

    Unit 2.17

    design

    creationism

    concept

    evolve

    perspective

     

    Unit 2.18

    disclaimer

    prescription

    potential

    assume

    rely

    Unit 2.19

    civic

    apathy

    enforce

    decline

    evidently

     

    Unit 2.20

    amnesty undocumented

    orient

    exclude

    compound

     

    Unit 2.21

    privacy

    invasion

    consist

    secure

    corporal

     

    Unit 2.22

    eligible

    affect

    maintain

    prerequisite

    previous

     

    Unit 2.23

    resumé

    responsibility

    acquire

    perceive

    sustain

     

    Unit 2.24

    tracking

    aptitude

    policy

    component

    involve

  • Focus Words, Series 3

    Unit 3.01

    controversy

    justify

    perspective

    bias

    debate

     

    Unit 3.02

    strategy

    research

    cite

    phase

    data

     

    Unit 3.03

    extend

    radical

    crucial

    attain

    initiative

     

    Unit 3.04

    adopt

    consent

    tension

    ensure

    duration

     

    Unit 3.05

    wiretapping

    source

    suspicious

    patriot

    eliminate

     

    Unit 3.06

    diminish

    regime

    displace

    stable

    estimate

    Unit 3.07

    voluntary

    literacy

    impose

    allocate

    rigid

     

    Unit 3.08

    genetic

    conception

    range

    circumstance

    regulate

     

    Unit 3.09

    modify
    DNA

    undernourished

    consequence

    extract

     

    Unit 3.10

    symbolic

    export

    domestic

    efficient

    integrate

     

    Unit 3.11

    whereas

    capable

    ongoing

    compatible

    notion

     

    Unit 3.12

    gender

    conduct

    adapt

    comprise

    paradigm

     

     

    Unit 3.13

    vocational

    inherently

    exceed

    equivalent

    focus

     

    Unit 3.14

    emerge

    exploit

    furthermore

    confront

    interfere

     

    Unit 3.15

    pose

    contact

    prime

    minimum

    unmonitored

     

    Unit 3.16

    revenue

    institute

    incident

    escort

    invoke

     

    Unit 3.17

    distribution

    outweigh

    anecdotal

    front

    sought

     

    Unit 3.18

    intrinsic

    commodity

    practitioner

    evaluate

    infer

     

    Unit 3.19

    conceive

    unethical

    benefit

    detect

    rationalize

    Unit 3.20

    scheme

    subsequently

    dominant

    import

    commission

    Unit 3.21

    yield

    participate

    superior

    resilient

    consensus

    Unit 3.22

    undergo

    empowering

    implications

    deny

    role

    Unit 3.23

    anonymous

    underlying

    capacity

    adequately

    harassment

    Unit 3.24

    disperse

    catalyze

    segregation

    reform

    injustice

Why such controversial topics?

Students require information about controversies currently attracting national attention, and skills for analyzing these issues, in order to be prepared to participate effectively in our democracy. Yet American schools tend to de-emphasize civics, leaving students ill-equipped to join the national conversation surrounding such issues as funding for stem cell research, use of affirmative action in college admissions, or the possibility of amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

In an editorial, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor asserted:

I believe that the civics curriculum should focus on getting more students in the game. To do so, it must concentrate on issues of importance to their world; teach them to analyze and engage in constructive discussions regarding controversial and important issues of the day, in a setting that inculcates thoughtful discussion.

While the weekly topics, in most instances, will not connect directly to the regular curriculum, they will give teachers an opportunity to help students explore issues that are deeply relevant to their content area. The topics are divided into four strands, so that each teacher will have the opportunity to present issues connected to his or her own subject.

Some topics are emotionally charged; the paragraphs are designed to encourage students to look beyond their initial response to examine the facts surrounding a particular controversy. The program includes suggested structures for facilitating debate and exposure to multiple points of view.

 

Topics, Series 1

1.01 What is the purpose of school?

1.02 When should someone be considered an adult?

1.03 What makes an American?

1.04 Cloning: threat or opportunity?

1.05 Does rap music have a negative impact on youth?

1.06 Animal testing: Is it necessary?

1.07 Censorship: Who should decide what young people read?

1.08 Climate change: Who should pay for the consequences?

1.09 School dress codes: not strict enough?

1.10 Who is responsible for doping in professional team sports?

1.11 Mummies: Who owns the dead?

1.12 Junk food: Should schools sell it?

1.13 Is the death penalty justified?

1.14 Asthma: more than a medical problem?

1.15 Today’s news: information or entertainment?

1.16 Teen smoking: Who is responsible?

1.17 Solitary confinement: legitimate protection or cruel and unusual punishment?

1.18 Should drugs be legalized?

1.19 Should the NFL require the Washington Redskins to change their name?

1.20 High school dropouts: What can be done?

1.21 Should victims’ families all receive the same compensation?

1.22 Politics and privacy: What do we need to know about a candidate?

1.23 Explicit photos and cell phones: illegal or just risky?

1.24 Dating violence: When should the police be called?

download PDF:
Series 1 Topics

Topics, Series 2

2.01 Should a standardized test be a requirement for high school graduation?

2.02 Should colleges use affirmative action?

2.03 Should schools or parents be responsible for sex education?

2.04 Do professional athletes deserve multi-million dollar salaries?

2.05 Should students be paid for performance in school?

2.06 Does Title IX promote gender fairness in sports and education?

2.07 Should the government fund embryonic stem cell research?

2.08 Who is responsible for childhood obesity?

2.09 Nuclear power: our energy future or danger to society?

2.10 Should the Pledge of Allegiance say “one Nation under God”?

2.11 Should English be the official language of the United States?

2.12 Are kids responsible for stepping in to prevent bullying?

2.13 Should doctors be allowed to assist seriously ill patients with suicide?

2.14 Should American students be required to learn a second language?

2.15 Are green technologies worth the investment?

2.16 Violence and media: Are ratings systems necessary?

2.17 Should intelligent design be taught in school?

2.18 Should drug companies be allowed to advertise prescription drugs on TV?

2.19 Should voting be compulsory in local and national elections in the United States?

2.20 Should there be amnesty for undocumented immigrants?

2.21 Should corporal punishment be outlawed?

2.22 Should middle and high school students have to meet a grade requirement to participate in sports?

2.23 Are after-school jobs helpful or harmful for middle and high school students?

2.24 Should middle and high schools use academic tracking?

download PDF:
Series 2 Topics

Topics, Series 3

3.01 Should school be a place for debate?

3.02 Should our use of paper or plastic be regulated?

3.03 Is an extended school day the right choice for U.S. students?

3.04 Should adoption information be kept from children?

3.05 Should secret wiretapping be legal?

3.06 When should the U.S. send troops to other countries?

3.07 Should the government impose a mandatory year of service?

3.08 Should the government regulate genetic testing?

3.09 Should the U.S. have tighter regulations on genetically modified food?

3.10 Should people continue to eat meat?

3.11 Do the benefits of renting a pet outweigh the potential harm it can cause the animals?

3.12 Should single-gender education be an option for everyone?

3.13 Should schools have a vocational track?

3.14 Should children be prohibited from becoming actors at an early age?

3.15 Who is responsible for protecting teens from online predators?

3.16 Should shopping malls be allowed to institute teen curfews?

3.17 Should everyone have access to medical marijuana?

3.18 How should organ recipients be chosen?

3.19 When is it okay to lie?

3.20 Should the U.S. have stricter gun regulations?

3.21 Should everyone get a trophy?

3.22 Is Barbie a bad influence?

3.23 Are schools responsible for protecting kids from cyberbullying?

3.24 Children protesting: duty or danger?

download PDF:
Series 3 Topics

Special Supports for English Learners available for Series 3!

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 for Series 3 of the original Word Generation topics (2014 version), in collaboration with teachers using Word Generation with ELL students.

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.

 

Academic Language For All!

Word Generation Supplementary Materials for Series 3

Visit website.

Download a sample.

Each unit supports ELLs in 5 ways:

  • GETTING ORIENTED
  • EVIDENCE AND PERSPECTIVES
  • ANNOTATIONS FOR TEACHERS
  • GENERATING WORDS
  • DEVELOPING DISCUSSIONS

All  Series 3 ELL supports are available through the website above or by visiting the main Word Generation Download Center.

WordGen Weekly

Interdisciplinary Units Grades 6-8

Word Generation Weekly 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.

Most middle schools using the WordGen Weekly have all students in grades six through eight working through the same series concurrently. This provides opportunities for whole-school engagement with the topic and creative reinforcement of the target vocabulary. For example, 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 teachers also 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.

All student materials available at the Student Download Center (no login or registration req'd).

Student, teacher, and supplemental materials available at the Teacher Download Center (registration req'd).

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Download a one-page description of WordGen Weekly

SERP has developed three series of weekly units on a variety of controversial topics.

Each series is intended to last once academic year. Schools may decide on any order that suits their needs.

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.

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