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2011 September Voices from the Middle, v19.1

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The September 2011 issue of Voices from the Middle (Volume 19, Number 1) features the theme "Quality Teaching."

ISBN/ISSN: 1074-4762

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Voices from the Middle
September 2011, Volume 19, Number 1 
Issue Theme: Quality Teaching

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Editors’ Message: Quality Teachers: Eyes Focused on Students and Instructional Practice
Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp
Abstract: We all strive to be quality teachers—knowledgeable, enthusiastic, supportive, motivating. We want to make a difference in students’ lives. But linear statistical measures camouflage the complex behaviors exhibited by a quality teacher, especially ones who are working with English language learners and/or economically disadvantaged students. The editors believe that while quality teaching rests on certain core behaviors, success must be measured in myriad ways, including the assessment of emotional growth as well as academic progress. This issue incorporates the voices of teachers who exemplify this attitude, these outcomes, and offer support as we examine our own practices. The editors encourage each of us to extend this self-examination and professional learning by initiating a learning community in our own schools.

Grading Written Work: An Integral Part of Writing Workshop Practice
Kristen Robbins
Abstract: This article chronicles how the process of reviewing and grading student written work became an integral part of a middle school teacher’s writing workshop practice. In addition to discussing how reading student work can bring educators back to the heart of the profession (including the belief that  spending time with drafts can reap more rewards than concentrating on final products), she explains her belief that it is central to quality teaching, lesson planning, and student growth.

Fostering Meaningful Middle School Literacy Learning: Investigating Beliefs and Practices
Cynthia H. Brock and Fenice B. Boyd

The Case for Adaptability as an Aspect of Reading Teacher Effectiveness
Seth Parsons, Baxter Williams, Sarah Burrowbridge, and Gary Mauk
Abstract: The authors present adaptability as an important component of reading teacher effectiveness. They demonstrate recent conceptions of teacher effectiveness that value the complexity and unpredictability of classroom instruction. Using an example from a middle grades classroom, they illustrate how effective teachers adapt their instruction to enhance student learning, and they describe two recent studies that suggest teacher adaptations have a positive effect on middle grades students’ comprehension and engagement.

The Power of Picturebooks: Resources That Support Language and Learning in Middle Grade Classrooms
Nancy Roser, Miriam Martinez, and Michelle Fowler-Amato
Abstract: This piece explores the instructional possibilities of picturebooks in middle grade classrooms, illustrating the central tenets of how to effectively introduce these resources to middle grade students.  Through today’s multiplicity of illustrated texts, students can discover the finest uses of language, as well as encounter images that inform, entertain, fill gaps, and open to wondering.

Student Perspectives on Quality Teaching: Words and Images
Athene Bell, Marriam Ewaida, Megan R. Lynch, and Kristien Zenkov
Abstract: This article reports on the findings of a photography and literacy project (“Through Students’ Eyes”) the authors conducted with middle level English language learners and alternative high school youth from a mid-Atlantic (US) ex-urban area. In order to bridge middle and high school settings, the authors used multimodal and photo elicitation methods to allow young adults to document and describe their relationships to school, thus helping to uncover youths’ perceptions of “quality” literacy pedagogies. They learned that visually based practices support young adolescents’ literacy engagement, engage diverse students in core language arts practices, and help youth persist through middle school, high school, and beyond.

Becoming a Good Teacher: Struggles from the Swampland
Mary Beth Schaefer
Abstract: One seventh-grade English language arts teacher engaged in teacher research in order to become a more understanding, responsive, and confident instructor. Systematic inquiry into her own practice revealed a conflict between what students perceived as their literacy needs and desires (discrete reading skills) with what she perceived to be important and valuable (deeper literary understandings through reflective response to literature). The teacher sought to address the conflict by listening closely to students’ talk, orchestrating activities to blend reading skills with responses to literature, and negotiating class conversations to produce knowledge.

Young Adult Literature: Boost Critical Thinking: New Titles for Thematically Based Text Sets
Barbara Moss
Abstract: Moss advocates the use of text sets, rather than single novels, to create real engagement in reading. Positing that text sets allow better student–book matches, promote examination of multiple viewpoints on “big ideas,” and support reflection about other people, places, and ideas, Moss suggests books that explore a range of viewpoints, use multiple narrators, depict various time frames, and present themselves in a variety of genres and styles. In Moss’s words, “Through these books and others, teachers can present students with worlds unlike their own, open students’ eyes to new and interesting perspectives, and help them move vicariously beyond their own circumstances to understand and embrace the perspectives of others.”

Student to Student: A Column to Celebrate Students’ Voices
Wendy Ranck-Buhr
Abstract: The new editor of Student to Student suggests that all middle level teachers of language arts encourage students to write brief book reviews and submit them for publication in this column. Teachers sometimes hesitate to submit their students’ reviews, intimidated by the scope of a national journal, but the motivational power of having just one student from a classroom or school published is palpable, and the reviews themselves, when shared with students, can serve to motivate reading and spark an interest in a new author or genre. Guidelines for teaching the review format and for submitting to Voices from the Middle are provided. Get reviewing!

Coda: Effective Teaching: Meeting the 5 M’s
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Abstract: Wilhelm laments the “inadequate and impoverished” orientation of teaching as telling—the simple transmission of information. He believes “effective teaching is about something entirely more complicated and wonderful: the creation of learning cultures that actively assist students not only toward . . . expertise, but also toward outgrowing their current selves as human beings.” In reading this issue’s articles, Wilhelm was struck by repeated motifs, which he has condensed into a heuristic he calls the 5 M’s: Materials, Methods, Measure, Monitors, and Malleability. He applies these characteristics to effective teaching and to learning outcomes, and believes that they can overcome “bad testing.” He says, “[They] had better. The stakes are high, and so is the challenge.”

News and Notes from the Middle Level Section
Lori Goodson

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