SAYRE — The Sayre Area School District is starting to use some research from Harvard University in order to help seventh graders increase vocabulary and argumentative writing scores.

The Sayre School Board was informed of the new program — called Word Generation — by high school principal Dayton Handrick and math teacher Derek Selleck at Monday’s workshop meeting.

Handrick explained to the board that Word Generation is a “researched-based vocabulary program for middle school students designed to teach words through interdisciplinary teams in language arts, math, science and social studies.”

The goals of the program are to build the vocabulary of middle school students, cultivate general word knowledge, give teachers effective vocabulary instructional strategies and facilitate faculty collaboration using a school-wide approach, according to Handrick’s report to the board.

A letter was sent home to parents explaining that the seventh grade students would be using an “essential question” each week to improve their argumentative writing as well as use “five high frequency vocabulary terms” during their classes.

The questions revolve around current event topics and the article used along with the topic presents at least two different sides to each issue. Here are some of the topics that the Sayre seventh graders will be tackling:

  • Should a standardized test be a requirement for high school graduation?
  • Should schools or parents be responsible for sex education?
  • Should American students be required to learn a second language?
  • Should there be amnesty for undocumented immigrants?
  • Should middle and high school students have to meet a grade requirement to participate in sports?
  • Nuclear power: Our energy future or danger to society?

Those are just a few of the possible topics for the students and because some would be considered controversial, the school district sent that list home to parents in order to give them a chance to have their voices heard.

The first day of the week, students will read an article about the week’s essential question during their English class. They will also learn and practice the five high frequency vocabulary terms.

On the second day, math teachers will focus part of their lesson to students’ completing mathematical word problems that relate to the essential question and that contain the vocabulary terms.

In science class on the third day, students will complete science word problems that relate to the essential question and contain the terms.

During their social studies class on the fourth day, students participate in a discussion about the essential question.

Finally, on the fifth day, the seventh graders complete a written response about their opinion on the essential question.

The school district is hoping this program will increase vocabulary scores and argumentative writing scores from pre-to-post test.

“One school who has implemented (Word Generation) for three years is seeing an increase in PSSA scores on the vocabulary strand,” Handrick told the board.

The program could also increase student participation as well as their interest and engagement in many of the topics, according to Handrick, who also said it will help social-emotional learning and cultivate a climate of respect for others and varying opinions.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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