Debates about banning rap music in school, using animals in cosmetics testing, and deciding who should pay for damage from a natural disaster are all topics that sixth grade students are discussing on a weekly basis as a part of a new cross-curricular program called Word Generation.
Last school year, Western Wayne Middle School Principal Kristen Donohue applied for a grant for Word Generation from the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) and got it. Donohue first heard of the program from Mary Lou Heron from the local NEIU 19 unit.
Word Generation is a cross-curricular program that has elements that are building wide. Each week, teachers introduce their students to five new words that relate to a specific debatable topic like the use of dress codes in schools. Students study these terms in their English language arts, science, and history classes.
The ELA teacher introduces the students to the words and then students apply them in their other courses throughout the week. As a culminating activity at the end of the week, students write a brief open-ended response piece where they have to use the new vocabulary correctly in the context of their writing.
“This program seemed to fall in line with things we were already talking about wanting to do to improve learning at our Middle School,” Donohue said. “We had already been in discussions about finding ways to do more cross-curricular activities. Word Generation has lent itself to be the avenue in which we are able to have even more of those conversations.”
Recently Mary Lou Heron from NEIU 19 and Mary Ann Dudak from PaTTAN came to observe Western Wayne’s use of Word Generation.
After seeing Western Wayne’s commitment to the program in their classrooms, morning announcements, and hallway displays, PaTTAN awarded Western Wayne a $7,000 grant to use toward their continuing work with Word Generation.
Donohue explained how the money will go towards the purchase of materials for the program and to pay for more training for Word Generation teachers.
This past December Donohue, Burke, and ELA teachers Grace Piconi and Jennifer Baldassari gave a presentation about their efforts in Word Generation at a training session at PaTTAN.
The Western Wayne team discussed how they are tailoring Word Generation lessons to their individual student needs and how they are working to make the lessons as high interest as possible to lead to meaningful classroom debates with the new words.
“I am proud of how our teachers presented at the session and of all of the work they are doing with Word Generation in their classrooms,” Donohue said. “I am also proud of the work our students are doing with this program.”
From left: Western Wayne Middle School Principal Kristen Donohue, Seth Dedonis, Ayden Connolly, Peyton Cook, Isis Christian, Gino Alcantara, and Dylan Davitt.