- Word Generation
Building Academic Vocabulary
Most of the target 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 target words are "topic-specific" words per week (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.