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2015 January Language Arts, v92.3

Non-Member Price: $12.50

NCTE Member Price: $4.25

Issue Theme: Insights and Inquiries

Level(s): Elementary, Middle

ISBN/ISSN: 0360-9170


Language Arts
Volume 92, Number 3, January 2015
Issue Theme: Insights and Inquiries

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Thoughts from the Editors: The Knotted-ness of Teaching
Teri Holbrook, Laura May, Peggy Albers, Caitlin McMunn Dooley, and Amy Seely Flint

What Are the Rest of the Students Doing? Literacy Work Stations in Two First-Grade Classrooms
Jo Worthy, Beth Maloch, Becky Pursley, Holly Hungerford-Kresser, Angela Hampton, Michelle Jordan, and Peggy Semingson
Abstract: Across the United States, teachers use literacy centers as a way to engage their students and build independent literacy skills while they teach guided reading groups. Maximizing student productivity and learning while the teacher is busy working with a reading group is an issue that has challenged teachers for years, leading educators to propose a variety of solutions. However, the effectiveness of literacy centers remains virtually unexamined in literacy research. Through classroom observations, videotaped reading instruction, and teacher and student interviews over the course of a school year, we examined literacy centers (more specifically, "literacy workstations," Diller, 2003) in two first grade classrooms. Findings suggest challenges with workstations were similar to those found in previous studies of seatwork (limited explanation and modeling of activities, limited monitoring of students' activities, confusion about assignments, and limited engagement and productivity). Productivity and engagement in stations varied, with different effects on students instructed in lower and higher guided-reading levels. In light of the findings, we recommend that teachers closely and critically examine instructional practices, use them flexibly and in ways that are appropriate for their particular contexts and students, and continuously evaluate their effectiveness.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree: Exploring Religion and Race in the Elementary Classroom
James S. Damico and Ted Hall
Abstract: We explore what happened during a literature discussion in a fifth-grade classroom when the students and teacher interpreted the experience of enslaved Blacks through "the cross." We also examine a digital video two of the students created about riots that ensued in Cincinnati after an unarmed African American teenager was killed by a White police officer. We begin with a framework that integrates culturally responsive teaching with Critical Race Theory (CRT). We then explain how we needed to include another perspective, Black liberation theology, to more richly frame, understand, and make explicit links among religion, racism, and suffering. Implications center on what we might learn from the teacher and children in this classroom, especially about the spaces that might be cultivated in classrooms when the topics of religion and the history of enslaved peoples intersect.

Research and Policy: The Search for Inclusion: Deficit Discourse and the Erasure of Childhoods
Anne Haas Dyson
Abstract: In this column, Anne Haas Dyson probes the persistence of deficit discourse in language arts education. Her major conceptual tool for this probing is language ideology, that is, the intersection of attitudes and opinions about language with attitudes and opinions about groups of people. In our field, assumed deficits of whole groups of children have become taken for granted, and thus children’s resources and strengths are discounted and disappeared. Moreover, the academic transformation of early schooling into a ladder of literacy benchmarks has narrowed the ways in which children can find, and be seen as finding, success in school. The “erasure”(Gal, 2012) of child strengths leads to the violation of an old pedagogical truth: Teaching every child depends on building on what that child knows and can do, to which I add, and what that child feels, fears, and socially longs for in the company of other children. To help clarify her ideas, Dyson draws on a case study of kindergartener Ta’Von whose social agency supported what his teacher deemed “amazing” success as a writer but, alas, did not allow him to merit the educational label “bright.”

Professional Book Reviews: Insights and Inquiries into Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Nicole Walker, Catherine Sanderson, Jessica Robbins, Pamela Jewett, Jessica Hanko, Brennan Davis, Angela Byrd, Elizabeth Bemiss, and Priscila Alvarado
Abstract: A discussion of four books current to literacy research regarding informational texts, this book review includes topics such as:  close reading of informational texts, teaching with text-based questions, social justice in the social studies classroom, and language and ethnography in education.  These various themes are connected by a desire to help teachers integrate informational texts in the classroom as mandated by the adoption of Common Core State Standards.

Children’s Literature Reviews: Memoirs, Magic, and Mutiny: Marvelous Titles to Share in K–8 Classrooms
Jonda C. McNair, Deanna Day, Karla J. Möller, and Angie Zapata
Abstract: This unthemed children's literature reviews column features a selection of some of our favorite recently published titles across several genres. It includes biographies, informational text, contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and concept books. Readers will find a range of titles about various topics such as Japanese internment camps, the Vietnam War, lucha libre, colors, and even a newborn elephant.

Conversation Currents: Students as Writers and Composers: Workshopping in the Digital Age
Language Arts staff
Abstract: Educators Troy Hicks and Franki Sibberson discuss the challenges of and arguments for teaching digital composition with elementary and middle school students.

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