While students may have prior exposure to the words selected, they may not understand them in novel contexts or abstract uses. For example, students tend to be familiar with 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.