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Language Arts, Vol. 86, No. 6, July 2009

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Cover Art for Language Arts, Vol. 86, No. 6, July 2009

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Inquiries and Insights

  • Call for Manuscripts

  • Thoughts from the Editors: Inquiries That Cross Boundaries of Classrooms and Communities

  • Searching for Peace: Exploring Issues of War with Young Children

    Terry J. Burns

    Abstract: Using a framework grounded in critical literacy, the author describes her 1st-grade students’ responses to works of literature that portray the impact of war.  When given opportunities to read works of literature that address social justice issues, such as the consequences of war, her primary-age students’ written, drawn, and spoken responses were meaningful and empathetic.  Her students’ responses addressed four areas of emphasis: discovering links between war-related concepts and students’ lives, expressing empathy for those impacted by war, searching for explanations or justifications for war, and cultivating new visions and possibilities for our world.

    Keywords: Literacy, Literature, Pedagogy, Elementary

  • “What He Wanted Was Real Stories, but No One Would Listen”: A Child’s Literacy, a Mother’s Understandings

    Connie L. White

    Abstract: This article discusses the importance of including mothers’ knowledge of their children’s learning in school discourses, theories, and practices. It draws on the story of one mother who participated in the author’s research. The experiences explicated in this story elucidate exclusionary practices that silence and marginalize mothers in our school systems. The article shows why it is critical that we listen to these traditionally unheard voices, if we truly wish for more socially just and equitable classrooms. It offers examples of more hopeful, inclusive partnerships made possible when teachers look beyond the everyday taken-for-granted practices of schools and work with mothers toward creating new spaces and possibilities.

    Keywords: Assessment, Language, Literacy, Elementary, School/Community

  • Inviting Students and Teachers to Connect

    Julie Bader Salcedo

    Abstract: This paper describes diverse language learners’ use of dialogue journaling in an elementary school setting.  The author, a teacher researcher, conducted a qualitative research study with eight participants, ranging from fourth to sixth grade; all were learners adding English to their language repertoire.  Through an in-depth analysis of student artifacts, surveys, ethnographic field notes, recorded student interviews, her own journal, and the input of a research community, the author unearthed what happened when she implemented the use of dialogue journals with her students.  The research findings demonstrate that using dialogue journals with diverse language learners provided opportunities for teacher and student to connect through writing, regardless of student–teacher contact hours.  Students valued the written interactions.  Some began to see themselves as better writers and, in one case, a better learner of English.  The teacher was able to connect with each student with intention, which not only enriched the teacher–student relationships, but provided learning opportunities for both the author and the students.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, Literacy, Pedagogy, Writing, Elementary, Middle

  • Research Directions: Listening to Families over Time: Seven Lessons Learned about Literacy in Families

    Catherine Compton-Lilly

    Abstract: The research reported in this article invites educators to rethink their assumptions about students and families.  Using data from a qualitative, longitudinal teacher-research study, the author presents seven lessons that she has learned from the families of her students and challenges other teachers to seek ways to learn about the families they serve. These lessons include learning that many urban families own books and enjoy reading, recognizing the particular meanings that parents associated with computers and sounding out words, and the recognition that parents are often aware of the assumptions teachers make about them.  The author maintains that it is important to recognize that characterizations of poor and culturally diverse families are not the result of individual prejudices.  They reflect dominant discourses (Compton-Lilly, 2007) and cultural models  (Gee, 1999) associated with diverse families and deep-seated beliefs that privilege particular ways of parenting, interacting with educational institutions, and supporting children with literacy tasks.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, Literacy, Research, Elementary, School/Community

  • Profiles and Perspectives: Louis’s Lightbulb Lesson (and Other Advice for Textbook Writers)

    Steve Sheinkin

    Abstract: In this article, the author reflects on his work as a textbook writer.  Given that knowledge is memorable when it is related to engaging stories, the author wonders if it is possible to turn the history of our great nation into such tales to motivate children’s learning. Attempts to make his textbook writing more vivid, however, are met with a whole world of unwritten rules. These rules dictate which stories must be told and which stories can never be told. It’s also a compilation of more subtle guidelines about how stories should be told, which characters, quotes, and details to emphasize, which to finesse, which to avoid.  The result of these prohibitions is that textbooks are created in an atmosphere of intense fear. The single greatest fear is that something in a textbook will be seen as unbalanced, upsetting, or offensive by someone somewhere in the United States. An expert knowledge of all the objections that have been made in the past gives editors the invaluable ability to look at a manuscript and be preemptively offended on behalf of others. They can cut potentially troublesome stories or details before any text leaves the office, so textbook authors always end up choosing from the same old list of stories. The author asks, “Are these the pieces most likely to engage and inspire young readers?” Not necessarily, he concludes.  Instead, they’re the stories that have been used hundreds of times without causing trouble.

    Keywords: Literature, Pedagogy, Media

  • Professional Book Reviews: Getting Past Getting Started: How to Improve New Teacher Retention

    Deborah Bieler

    Abstract: A disturbing statistic, well known among those working to improve new teacher retention, is that almost 50% of our new teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. The publication of this statistic has generated a number of research and policy initiatives designed to learn more about who leaves teaching, why (and when and where), and what all of us can do to support new teachers more effectively. In this column, the author reviews two books and two websites related to this topic.

    Keywords: Pedagogy, Research

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: 2008 Poetry Notables

    Kathleen Armstrong, Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, Jonda C. McNair, Gail Spivey-Wesson, Barbara Ward, and Janet S. Wong

    Abstract: In 2008, roughly 100 poetry books were published for young readers. Members of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Committee sifted through them, looking for ones that stood out amongst their peers. The Committee read carefully, without preset notions of what constitutes excellence, and found books by both well-known poets and first-time authors to recommend in this list.

    Keywords: Literature, Writing

  • In Closing…Honk if You’re a Reader!

    J. Patrick Lewis

    Abstract: In this poem, J. Patrick Lewis explores the humorous and unexpected connections books help us form with each other.

    Keywords: Literature, Writing

  • Guest Reviewers for Volume 86

  • Index for Volume 86

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts