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2014 September Language Arts, v92.1

Non-Member Price: $12.50

NCTE Member Price: $4.25

Issue Theme: Kids as Researchers

Level(s): Elementary, Middle

ISBN/ISSN: 0360-9170


Language Arts
Volume 92, Number 1, September 2014

Issue Theme: Kids as Researchers

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Thoughts from the Editors: Who Is Doing the Research?
Amy Seely Flint, Teri Holbrook, Laura May, Peggy Albers, and Caitlin McMunn Dooley

Loving "Killdeer Pond": The Multiple Signs of Children’s Inquiry
Wayne Serebrin
Abstract: Pedagogical relationships are at the heart of this inquiry-driven, multimodal literacy study in which a multi-age classroom teacher co-constructs curriculum with 6–9-year-old children as they individually and collectively deepen their understandings and compassion for a local pond and the birds that inhabit it.  In their recurring, intimate encounters with the pond and birdlife over a 3-month period, the children come to know and care for one another and for the pond and birds through the ears, eyes, actions, social practices, and affiliations of a naturalist/birder; their intentional and authentic use and production of multiple and multimodal texts as researchers; a timely visit to a marsh/interpretive center that challenges their current theories; their own embodied and integrated actions as artists, writers, and dramatic players; and their celebratory representations of their learning to their families.  The study is significant in its depiction of inquiry processes as flourishing in experiential, dialogic, and reflective spaces, as being affectively charged, dynamic, and often unpredictable, and as pedagogically supported by a teacher and children when they are fully present for one another as listeners and genuinely interested and responsive collaborators. The study provokes literacy researchers and educators to rethink and revalue children’s literacy practices themselves (rather than over-emphasizing the texts that arise out of these practices) as these practices are drawn into the children’s inquiries as active participants.  Finally, the study reveals the imaginative and transformative potential of the children’s use of a full palette of literacies (multiple sign systems) to claim new identities, and to know and care about the world around them in more mindful ways.

Becoming Text Analysts: Unpacking Purpose and Perspective
Christine H. Leland and Stevie R. Bruzas
Abstract: Many students believe that textbooks are objective and read them uncritically. When they find conflicting accounts, they have few strategies for figuring out what to believe. In this study, a fourth-grade teacher invited her students to become text analysts as they examined divergent texts about two social studies topics: the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the so-called new world and the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II. Descriptions of these topics in textbooks and in children’s literature were compared and contrasted in terms of whose perspectives they privileged and/or neglected and what the authors wanted readers to believe. Students showed growth in their ability to understand and evaluate authors’ purposes and perspectives.

Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions through Collaborative Inquiry
Heidi Mills, Tim O’Keefe, Chris Haas, and Scott Johnson
Abstract: In this article, the authors demonstrate the ways elementary teachers, their university partner, and children co-construct knowledge within a culture of inquiry. Inquiry permeates teaching, learning, and ongoing professional development at the Center for Inquiry in Columbia, South Carolina. The teachers featured in this piece illuminate how their students became reading researchers, engaged parents in the research process, investigated eating habits and food waste in the school cafeteria, and participated in international citizen science projects.  As young researchers, the kids grew new beliefs that led them to take new actions. They became more sophisticated and strategic readers, more conscientious eaters, more careful consumers, and better caretakers of the earth.  The authors conclude with concrete strategies for engaging students in action research.  They also offer recommendations for grounding ongoing professional development in teacher inquiry.

Research and Policy: So the Boys Won’t Bother Us: Kindergarten Students as Researchers
Vivian Maria Vasquez
Abstract: This column highlights work done by Hannah, a Kindergarten student-researcher, and her use of art as a tool for engaging in research focused on an issue of importance in her life. In particular, Hannah’s use of drawing as a semiotic research tool for producing visual narratives to systematically and intentionally engage in inquiry about how to disrupt the bullying on the monkey bars at her school is described. Her use of art as a literacy through which to construct meaning in her life and to attempt to change the conditions of her world—to re-draw her existence and that of the other girls in her class—is discussed.  In the end, the transformative effects on learning that resulted from Hannah’s student-research are shared along with the implications of stifling educational policies that make it more and more challenging for teachers to create such curricular spaces for children.

Professional Book Reviews: Creating Critical, Joyful, and Socially Just Classrooms
Elizabeth Bemiss, Chris Hass, Tasha Tropp Laman, Dywanna Smith, and Lisa Stockdale
Abstract: This issue’s professional book reviews examine a range of texts that explore teacher inquiry in a variety of contexts.  Whether the authors are examining educational philosophies such as Reggio Emilia and its application to literacy workshops or ways to consider how our research and practices position youth, this month’s authors all engage in research that changes how teachers approach their students and curriculum.  Underlying each of the professional books is a foundation of the integral nature of reflection in refining one’s teaching practices.  These reflective practitioners help us consider curricular structures, critical literacy, humanizing research, and the joy in teaching diverse students.  Each of these texts enriched our conversations and affected our practice in small and big ways. We hope they do the same for you.

Children’s Literature Reviews: Move Over, Frog and Toad: Transitional Chapter Books
Jonda C. McNair, Deanna Day, Karla J. Möller, and Angie Zapata
Abstract: This column focuses on transitional chapter books for beginning readers. Transitional chapter books serve as a bridge between picturebooks and more complex novels. They usually have a number of common characteristics such as a table of contents, larger font sizes, brief chapters with some illustrations interspersed throughout, and less than 100 pages of text.

Conversation Currents: Co-researching with and among Children and Youth
Nadjwa Norton and Heather Oesterreich
Abstract: In this column, Nadjwa Norton from City College, CUNY, and Heather Oesterreich from New Mexico State University discuss the methodology of children as co-researchers. They situate the methodology in the history of inquiry and within the framework of critical literacies. They discuss how they got started with the methodology, various strategies and tools, and the challenges and tensions in this work.

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