Implementing “Word Generation” to Enhance Academic Language and Argumentation Skills across the Content areas

by Dr. Jennifer Collins

Upper elementary and middle school teachers often report that their students have adequately developed word reading skills but underdeveloped academic vocabulary and comprehension skills, resulting in low levels of student engagement with text and poor acquisition of background information. However, teachers also report that there is not uniformity with respect to the provision of high-quality vocabulary instruction and discourse across disciplinary areas. Students are often left trying to rely on difficult texts to help themselves learn concepts.

How Might Word Generation Help?

Word Generation is a free, evidence-based curricular resource that offers a series of high-interest, discussable dilemmas designed to promote students’ academic language and argumentation skills. Each of the 72 brief one-week units is delivered within fifteen- to twenty-minute activities 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 is aligned to the standards and 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

Through implementation of Word Generation, grade level teams, represented by ELA, Science, Social Studies and Math teachers, work collaboratively to improve the academic language and argumentation skills of their students. Word Generation is strongly recommended for upper elementary and middle school teams who share the following concerns and/or goals:

1. A population of students with diverse needs who would benefit from repeated exposure to high-frequency academic words across contexts
2. A tool to support all content area teachers with delivery of effective vocabulary instruction
3. Faculty-wide goal of enhancing academic vocabulary and student discourse/argumentation skills

Word Generation is also appropriate for students who would benefit from academic enrichment in grade 3 and students in high school who are experiencing significant weaknesses in academic vocabulary

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