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2015 September Voices from the Middle, v23.1

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Issue Theme: Motivation for Learning and Life

Level(s): Middle

ISBN/ISSN: 1074-4762


Voices from the Middle
Volume 23, Number 1, September 2015

Issue Theme: Motivation for Learning and Life

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Editors' Message: Motivation: Both an Outcome and a Cause of Learning
Diane Lapp, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey
Abstract: Abstract for this article is currently not available.

Students’ Understandings of What Is Important in the Teaching of Reading
Diane Barone and Rebecca Barone
Abstract: Fifty students wrote replies to two questions: What is important to know to teach reading? What did my teacher do to teach reading? Overall, they knew that teachers had to know the content of reading such as phonics. When focusing on their own teacher, they described having opportunities to read and, in particular, the practice of literature circles.

Relationships Matter: Fostering Motivation through Interactions
Erika Daniels and Ron Pirayoff
Abstract: The word motivation comes from the Latin word meaning “to move.” Middle school educators know all too well that getting their young adolescents to want to move or work or achieve can be challenging. Similarly, teachers themselves fall on various points of the motivation continuum. In this article, the authors report what motivated teachers said about the factors that encourage them to become and remain effective. A striking finding was that each of the teachers found relationships—with students, colleagues, and administrators—at the heart of his or her motivation. A steadfast commitment to building relationships has a powerful impact on sustained motivation over a career.

Priming for Change: The Motivation behind Appropriate Interventions
Moises Buhain
Increasing motivation and student achievement in adolescent students has been studied within and outside the field of education. Using Prochaska and DiClemente's model on the stages of change (SOC), this article seeks to explore the application of SOC on addressing low motivation in underachieving middle school students. The author posits that an understanding of SOC allows educators to discern the differences between the stages of changes and to deliver appropriately timed responses and interventions. The technique of motivational interviewing is also reviewed as tool used to foster student engagement and enhance teacher assessment on student position of the SOC continuum.

Passion, I See, Is Catching: Motivating Middle Level Students through Learner-Centered Shakespeare Projects
Michelle Arastu and L. D. Gebhardt
Abstract: A seventh grade language arts teacher in Texas creates a student-centered learning environment in which her gifted and talented and pre–Advanced Placement students are motivated to interact with a Shakespeare play and each other in creative and divergent ways. Students strategically select their group mates, create an assessment rubric for their project, and collaborate to produce a filmed interpretation of The Merchant of Venice in a context different from the original. Students meet with their teacher on an ongoing basis to assess their progress and make adjustments so that they are successful in this project which requires deep levels of comprehension of this rigorous text.

Designing Relevant Vocabulary “Warm-Ups” for Reading Workshop
Christine Walsh and Dan Rose
Abstract: This article represents a piece of the ongoing dialogue between Chris Walsh, literacy coach, and Dan Rose, eighth-grade English teacher, as they collaboratively examine the teaching and learning taking place in Dan’s English language arts classroom. Documenting detailed observations, Chris identifies Dan’s delivery of highly engaging, socially stimulating vocabulary minilessons. Dan, in turn, reflects on Chris’s observations, exposing his planning processes and beliefs about how middle school readers and writers learn best. By participating in numerous and varied opportunities to construct their own meanings, students will become more independent readers and writers.

Engaging Students through Authentic and Effective Literacy Instruction
Nadia Behizadeh
Abstract: A growing body of research demonstrates how current high-stakes reading and writing tests can cause teachers to focus heavily on preparing students for success on these assessments, often to the detriment of culturally relevant, authentic, and engaging curricula. However, effective literacy education and authentic literacy education can be achieved simultaneously. In this collaboration, one university researcher (the author) and a classroom teacher worked together to implement and reflect on lessons designed by the author to motivate students through highly authentic literacy tasks while simultaneously developing reading and writing skills. A sample lesson is offered as an illustrative example.

Using an Anchor Text to Spark Inquiry: Asking Questions and Conducting Meaningful Investigation
Lindsey Isaacs
Abstract: Isaacs’s research revolved around the question: “What happens when students use an anchor text to drive their research?” The article addresses the importance of asking researchable questions, using an anchor text to formulate focused questions that lead to more specific answers, discussing and collaborating when researching, and providing students with a meaningful outlet through which to showcase their research and investigative findings. The results of research and observation show that students need to be taught how to ask questions in general before they can do so to conduct research. Using an anchor text helps them create questions that they can discuss with their peers, and giving them a specific way in which to present their investigative findings helps them see the purpose and motivates them to find more answers.

Migrant Students Scaffolding and Writing Their Own Stories: From Socioculturally Relevant Enabling Mentor Texts to Collaborative Student Narratives
Scott A. Beck and Alma D. Stevenson
Children of migrant farmworkers drop out of school more than any other group. They need and deserve academic support that is socioculturally relevant to their lives. This article describes an innovative summer literacy program for intermediate and middle level children of migrant farmworkers that presented them with more than two dozen children’s picture story books with migrancy themes and systematically documented their responses to the books. Then, using these mentor texts and their responses as scaffolding, the students collaborated to create semi-autobiographical, illustrated narratives about growing up as migrants. These student-created CPSBs challenge our society’s erasure of and hostility toward migrants.

An Urban School Shapes Young Adolescents’ Motivation to Read
Chantal Francois
Abstract: Findings from a yearlong study at an urban middle and high school affirm that as much as reading motivation is intrinsic, it is also contextual. Consistent independent reading, talk about books, and the principal’s enthusiasm about students’ reading characterized this school’s reading culture. In turn, students expressed appreciation of these factors. These findings suggest that adults in schools can shape young adolescents’ motivation to read in schools in ways that have positive effects on their reading identity, efficacy in reading, and ability to read well.

Creating Middle School Harlem Historians: Motivating Urban Students through Community-Based History
Barry M. Goldenberg, Andrew Wintner, and Carolyn Berg
Abstract: The Middle School Harlem Historians (MSHH) was a six-session after-school program in which middle school students learned to become historical researchers of their community, with the goal of motivating low-performing urban students to write in powerful and inspiring ways. Specifically, MSHH occurred in three cycles, with students picking a historical topic related to their lives in Harlem and writing an essay about their research. By fostering a culturally affirming and "scholarly" atmosphere in coordination with careful pedagogy that encouraged independent work, students became much more motivated to write and improved their writing abilities in result.

Book Talk: Finding Just the Right Story: Motivating Readers with Middle Level LGBTQ-Themed Literature
Emily S. Meixner
Abstract: As students move from elementary to middle school, they continue to need well-written, high interest books that speak to their experiences and engage them as readers. This article examines why these texts should include LGBTQ characters and themes and how the presence of middle level LGBTQ-themed literature in classrooms and libraries benefits all students. The author also recommends several middle level LGBTQ titles that feature complex, diverse tween and early teen protagonists.

Teaching the Common Core: To Motivate, or To Understand Motivations?
Gay Ivey
Abstract: Middle level students literate lives are intertwined with social and personal concerns. This realization is key to how teachers view and address standards associated with reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

CODA: Finding Flow: The Power of Motivation and Pleasure
Jeffery Wilhelm
Abstract: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow posits that when people are most engaged, they have achieved a state of mind where they are totally immersed in the activity to an extent where nothing else can interfere or interrupt it. The conditions necessary to create a “flow” experience are quite similar to the conditions for pleasure discovered by the author in his own research. The key to motivation, then, is to attempt to cultivate the conditions of flow and the listed conditions for pleasure in classroom work.

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