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2012 March Voices from the Middle, v19.3

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Voices from the Middle
Volume 19, Number 3, March 2012
Issue Theme: Preparing Our Students as Writers

Level(s): Middle

ISBN/ISSN: 1074-4762

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Voices from the Middle
Volume 19, Number 3, March 2012
Issue Theme: Preparing Our Students as Writers


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Editors' Message: Preparing Our Students as Writers
Diane Lapp, Doug Fisher, and Nancy Frey
Abstract: The authors of the articles in this issue present the face of writing as collaborative rather than solitary. This perception is illustrated through articles portraying students using multiple mediums that permit a more personal sense of audience. Aligned with national and local educational agency expectations, teachers depicted within the instructional examples promote students’ ownership of voice and the development of techniques supportive of sharing one’s positions via writing.

Progressive Writing Instruction: Empowering School Leaders and Teachers
Jan Lacina and Cathy Collins Block
Abstract: Many recent publications describe writing as the neglected “r”; however, there is very little data on what writing instruction looks like in schools, especially in grades 4–6. The purpose of this article is to describe large urban school district literacy leaders’ views on the state of writing instruction within their districts—and their projections for the future of writing instruction. Educators at all levels must re-think how they approach the teaching of writing, re-envisioning how to transform teaching practices to impact our students and their world for the next decade to come.

Narrative as a Springboard for Expository and Persuasive Writing: James Moffett Revisited
Barbara J. Radcliffe
Abstract: In middle school, the focus of writing instruction shifts away from narrative writing to more academic writing. In the process, many students become less engaged as they respond to inauthentic prompts; additionally, their writing becomes stilted and formulaic. This article addresses the role narrative writing plays by acting as a springboard to the more privileged modes of exposition and argumentation. Leaning on James Moffett's, "I, You, and It" theory, the author presents the instructional practice of spiraling writing experiences to support the development of middle school writers. Embedded within a unit on teen violence, students' writing is scaffolded as they move through a purposeful progression of informal to formal, personal to impersonal, and lower to higher abstraction.

Using Student Voices to Guide Instruction

Susan E. Elliott-Johns, David Booth, Jennifer Rowsell, Enrique Puig, and Jane Paterson
Abstract: A collaborative team of five international teacher educators/researchers examine the importance of student voice for authentic discourse and instructional design in contemporary classrooms. Excerpts from their perspectives on teaching, research, and innovative programs are woven together and include suggested Actions/Reflections for the reader.

Teaching Writers through a Unit of Study Approach
Denise N. Morgan with Barbara Clark, Joe Paris, and Claudia Kozel
Abstract: Writing needs to be taught, not assigned, but teaching writing well within a 43-minute period is a daunting task. This article describes how three 8th-grade teachers implemented a unit of study approach to teaching memoir writing in their language arts classes. Teacher and student decision making are highlighted in this inquiry process.

“Writing So People Can Hear Me”: Responsive Teaching in a Middle School Poetry Unit
Cara Gutzmer and Phillip Wilder
Abstract: If we listen to them, the words of our students can provide a road map for instructional responses that meet their diverse literacy needs. In this article, Cara Gutzmer, a middle school literacy coach, and Phil Wilder, a teacher collaborator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discuss how a responsive teaching framework guided their responses to 6th-grade students in a poetry unit. After using student writing and feedback to create the essential understandings and essential questions for the unit, the authors created a culture of transparent assessment in the classroom so that students could guide instructional responses. Within this classroom writing community, pre-assessments about reading and writing poetry as well as ongoing daily feedback informed how the authors scaffolded the writing process and flexibly grouped these young writers based on their literacy needs and interests.

Young Adult Literature—The Writerly Life: Books and Resources for Middle Graders
Barbara Moss, editor
Abstract: This column introduces readers to books and Web resources that address different aspects of writing and demonstrate how writing can help students explore issues, negotiate problems, and reflect on life’s challenges. Books from every genre can get them thinking, mentor texts and writing handbooks can give them models, and myriad websites can give them a place to experiment and share their writing.

Student to Student—Why We Write
Wendy Ranck-Buhr, editor
Abstract: Editor Ranck-Buhr asked children from kindergarten through middle school why they write. Every level saw the practical reasons for writing, but by middle school, some students also expressed a personal need to write. Here are thought-provoking responses from three middle schoolers about how writing helps them think, feel, and cope.

Coda—What Must Be Taught about Writing: Five Kinds of Knowledge and Five Kinds of Composing
Jeff Wilhelm
Abstract: Students need to develop five kinds of knowledge to be successful in any kind of specific reading or writing task. These kinds of knowledge can be developed through five different kinds of composing that lead to deep understanding of how texts are constructed with specific content to create particular effects and meaning.  Following this process helps students to meet and exceed many of the CCSS standards for writing narrative, argument, and informational/explanatory texts.

News and Notes from the Middle Level Section—Student Writing and the Writing Students Do
Martha Medlock
Abstract: Medlock, Associate Chair of the Middle Level Section Steering Committee, stresses the need for authentic purposes when trying to engage students with writing. For instance, teachers can introduce students to Good Reads or other websites where students can write for their peers; another idea is to partner with other students, possibly a local elementary class, where middle level students can write stories for younger children. Having come to realize that capitalizing on individual interests is a sure path to engagement, she also emphasizes the value of letting students choose their own topics for writing.

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