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2016 December Voices from the Middle, v24.2

Non-Member Price: $18.75

NCTE Member Price: $6.25

Issue Theme: Who Are Middle Level Kids?

Level(s): Middle

ISBN/ISSN: 1074-4762

Description

Issue Theme: Who Are Middle Level Kids?

Calls for Manuscripts

Office Hours: Learning That Matters
Sara Kajder and Shelbie Witte

LEADING THE CALL: How to Thrive in the Middle
Nancie Atwell
Abstract: Award-winning teacher-educator Nancie Atwell discusses classroom strategies that help students in this transitional age group become more engaged in their reading and writing. The most important factor: allowing them agency in choosing their topics.

LEADING THE CALL: Creating Passionate Readers
Pernille Ripp
Abstract: Once we recognize the very powerful role teachers play in shaping a child’s identity, we can also recognize the immense power we have to help a child become, or remain, a reader. What we do right now may have ramifications far into their future. What we do today, the foundation we lay, may support not just their further academic pursuits, but even shape the children they may have someday and whether the next generation will be readers.

YA VOICES: We’re All Apes, After All: An Author’s-Eye View of the Middle School Classroom
Eliot Schrefer
Abstract: The two-time National Book Award finalist discusses the lessons he's learned over many classroom visits.
 
College and Career Readiness in Middle School: From George Costanza to Oprah Winfrey
Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, and Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson
Abstract: Trends toward joyless, anxiety-ridden learning environments are often attributed to the advent of the Common Core State Standards, which are commonly interpreted in ways that place great emphasis on presumably quantifiable aspects of instruction. Education is rife, however, with examples of children whose interests and talents—which later led to world-changing careers—were not supported by traditional classroom instruction. We find that middle school, when students’ quests for identity are on overdrive, is an optimal time to help students deeply explore the rich and diverse possibilities for futures that connect to the things that bring them joy. But, how might educators engage in this added layer of college and career thinking when supporting reading competency in middle school requires such tremendous resources?

COLLABORATIVE VOICES: A Mindset for Learning from Others
Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass
Abstract: The authors discuss ways to create a culture of collaboration in daily, individual interactions in schools, and what it is that has given us license to think together and put aside our own biases and experiences that may get in the way of true understanding.

“Smarter Than We Give Them Credit For”: Assumptions and Disruptions in a Summer Reading Program
Susan Groenke and Rachelle S. Savitz
Abstract: Research supports the claim that teachers' assumptions about middle level readers can influence classroom practice, including how students are positioned for success—or marginalized—in the ELA classroom. Assumptions are part of teachers' larger belief systems, which can act as "mental parameters within which teachers conceptualize the teaching and learning process " (Donaghue, 2003). Researchers call on literacy teacher- educators to create spaces where such parameters are "disrupted," and teachers' assumptions about young readers become visible, leading to transformed understandings and actions. This article reports on such a space that was created in a summer reading program where secondary literacy  teachers' assumptions about middle level readers were disrupted when they worked with middle level "book buddies" around the youths' text choices

STUDENT VOICES: “There’s Never Two of Anything”
Linda Rief
Abstract: In our rush for coverage and disciplinary focus, we have forgotten the students and forgotten the pleasure we take from a beautifully written piece of literature. Real learning is messy, takes time, and does not happen in solitary lessons defined by some number on a standards checklist. This issue's column discusses ways for students to engage with a piece of literature by seeing it through a lens that reflects their own lives.

Fostering Authentic Science Writing through Shared Inquiry
Thomas McCann, Rebecca D’Angelo, Mary Greska, and Nancy Galas
Abstract: Two fifth-grade teachers, a school librarian, and a university professor report about the surprising emotional, social, and intellectual maturity that middle level learners displayed when they joined together in grappling with difficult science-related topics. Through a shared inquiry and dialogic process, the collaborating teachers tapped into the students' desire to interact with peers while focusing on a task they deemed important. In following learners through a shared inquiry process, the collaborators learned much about how students can write meaningfully about a complex science problem, and by extension, about many problems that confront the contemporary world.

Troubling a “Cultured Hell”: Empowering Adolescent Voices through Youth Participatory Action Research
Jamie Jordan Hogan
Abstract: The stuff our students want to talk about more and explore most is the heavy stuff. These adolescent youth long not only to talk about the heavy stuff, they want to research the issues that matter most to them, and they want to write about the socially constructed and politically loaded labels that they are forced to inhabit. They seek to understand—an understanding that is driven by a desire to actuate change. The burning question for us as educators: What are we so afraid of in letting them explore these topics?
 
NEW VOICES: Seeing Students, Not Discipline: Never Strip Them of Their Dignity
Christopher Lehman
Abstract: In this issue, we interview Chad Everett, an educator who has firsthand experience with student discipline both inside and outside of the classroom. He reflects on the importance of working to see the whole child, even when—and perhaps especially when—they exhibit challenging behavior.

Designing Curriculum That Matters: Awakening Middle School Minds
Steven Wolk
Abstract: Middle school students are awakening to a more powerful and empathetic consciousness to the world around them. They have a new interest in important, complex, and sophisticated issues and topics. Teachers can tap into this young adolescent energy by designing curriculum around topics that truly matter to the students and to people across the planet. One way teachers can shape this curriculum is by using middle grade and young adult literature as "anchor texts" for project-based inquiry.

Space for All: Middle Level Students in Blended Learning Environments
Mark Stevens
Abstract: Blended learning is a type of instruction delivered using Internet resources along with teacher small and whole group instruction in a school. It has been called a disruptive influence on the educational process in general. The author finds this to be true as reflected in three examples of interaction in that environment with students. In these examples, the author learned to make space that suited students' needs, both on and offline. By transgressing spaces, it was possible to achieve a variety of goals, including the development of writing ability, honing of analytical skills, and participation in activities that promote the mastery of social studies content.

Thinking While Reading: The Beautiful Mess of Helping Adolescents Discover and Celebrate How Their Minds Work
Maggie Beattie Roberts and Kristin Robbins Warren
Abstract: Adolescents are in the midst of deep analytical thinking. Our middle level kids are doing the beautifully messy work of understanding themselves, creating ideas about how the world works, and figuring out how to fit into it all. It's surprising, then, when we ask them to do similar thinking as readers of texts, it falls flat or doesn't translate. The same thinking skills vibrant in their social-emotional lives can, at times, lay dormant when asked to analyze, interpret, or synthesize ideas from a text. We want the work of literacy to be a journey of self-discovery—the discovery of oneself as a thinker and reader.

NOTES FROM THE MIDDLE LEVEL SECTION: Celebrating the Gangles: Convergence and the Middle Level
Jason Griffith
Abstract: It’s no wonder that many teachers take one look at a middle school classroom and head the other way, turning back only to say something like, “It takes a special person to teach middle school.” Indeed, a successful middle school teacher is one who celebrates the gangles. One who sees not chaos, but rather a patchwork quilt of potential. One who approaches instruction and relationships with what Dr. Jim Blasingame calls an “adjustable wrench.

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