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Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 1, September 2009

Cover Art for Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 1, September 2009

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Disciplining the Language Arts

  • Call for Manuscripts

  • Thoughts from the Editors: Disciplining the Language Arts

    Patricia Enciso, Laurie Katz, Barbara Z. Kiefer, Detra Price-Dennis, and Melissa Wilson

  • Kyle and the Basilisk: Understanding Children’s Writing as Play

    Gail M. Boldt

    Abstract: In this article, Boldt considers decisions teachers must make about the value of children’s writing as a form of play in primary classrooms. She offers a brief history of the framing of this question at 1966 Dartmouth Conference on English, focusing particularly on the perspective of Jimmy Britton. She highlights the relationship between Britton’s work on play and fantasy and that of his brother-in-law, the child psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott. Reading across their publications on play and fantasy, she has drawn out the argument that their work was motivated by a mutual concern about the dangers of orthodoxy, compliance, and what Winnicott referred to as a “fascist state of mind." She highlights that what they advocated for was a set of playful practices, including Britton's understanding of children's writing as a form of play, that were grounded in a deep concern that classroom pedagogy could contribute either to children's sense of social responsibility, artistic and creative potential and emotional security, or to fear, rigidity and conformity. She argues that to return to this set of concerns is particularly timely in today's accountability-driven environment.

    Keywords: Literacy, Research, Writing, Standard

  • Expansive Learning and Chicana/o and Latina/o Students’ Political-Historical Knowledge

    Mariana Pacheco

    Abstract: This article examines how Chicana/o and Latina/o youth employed their political-historical knowledge to “talk back” to the xenophobia and political contradictions that underlie the (im)migration “debate.” A literacy unit that honed bilingual students’ everyday translating created opportunities for students to utilize this political-historical knowledge to “translate” their critiques to formal and informal audiences in their writing (e.g., the mayor vs. friends). Pacheco briefly overviews the unit and emphasizes the practices related to voice most relevant to her analysis of sixth-grade students’ essays about (im)migration and the plight of (im)migrants. This article demonstrates how students framed (im)migration, positioned themselves within the debate, positioned major political figures, drew on their historical knowledge, and appropriated community discourses of resistance. In many ways, these students already embodied the kinds of critical literacies and position-taking advocated by literacy researchers and educators. This article concludes with a discussion of how educators can draw strategically on students’ sociocultural knowledge, as well as their political-historical knowledge, in the service of expanding their critical literacies.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, Literacy, School/Community

  • Discipline and Play with/in a Mandated Literacy Curriculum

    Stavroula Kontovourki and Marjorie Siegel

    Abstract: In this article, the authors explore a young child’s lived experience of discipline and play with/in a mandated balanced literacy curriculum. Mandating balanced literacy presents an interesting case of disciplining literacy because it is rooted in the progressive tradition of meaning-and-process pedagogies. As such, it avoids the most obvious forms of regulation and control found in scripted lessons, yet imposes particular meanings of literacy, teaching, and learning on teachers and children. Drawing on data from a year-long inquiry of one kindergarten classroom, the authors demonstrate how the mandated curriculum disciplined Hector and his teacher but also how they played with/in this curriculum. The slash between “with” and “in” serves to highlight the fact that Hector never escaped the limits of the mandated curriculum. Sometimes he was “in” the curriculum, so fully disciplined by it that he sought out recognition as a successful reader and writer. Other times, he played within the spaces made available by independent reading and writing time. In these cases, he untethered school literacy from its individualistic and monomodal roots, but his play remained “within” the bounds of the curricular routines. The fluency with which Hector shifted from a writer at play to a student at work points to the complexities of policy mandates and their enactment in classrooms. (210 words)

    Keywords: Literacy, Pedagogy, Elementary, Standard

  • Research Directions: Mapping a Rhizome of 21st Century Language Arts: Travel Plans for Research and Practice

    Margaret C. Hagood

    Abstract: Language arts education has experienced enormous growth and change with the advent of multimodalities in new media, digital literacies, and technologies. In this paper, Hagood uses Deleuze and Guattari’s (1980/1987) theoretical work of a rhizome, rhizoanalysis, and rhizomatic cartography to view the field and examine differently converging theories, expounding upon the commonalities and proposing research and educational possibilities that these connections afford. She uses rhizoanalysis to map a rhizome of 21st century language arts education and attempts to show openings for language arts education that account for traditional and multimodal literacies within an era of traditionally assessed educational accountability. She also presents a landscape of possible implications for research and instruction in language arts through a relational analysis of Deleuze and Guattari’s map and the tracing.

    Keywords: Research

  • Focus on Policy: Discipline or Punish? Some Suggestions for School Policy and Teacher Practice

    K. Wayne Yang

    Abstract: This article seeks to restore a counter-narrative of discipline as distinct from punishment. Punishment is retribution for an offense, an exclusionary act by which students are removed from the opportunity to learn. It is harm inflicted by an external agent as a mechanism through which outside regulation becomes internalized subjectivity. Too often, this is the rubric from which we speak of classroom management and school policies on detentions, suspensions, and expulsions. By contrast, discipline is an act of rigorous physical or mental training, a practice of will that can lead paradoxically to docile compliance or emancipatory possibilities. If we think of any challenging endeavor, in athleticism, art, performance, or work, then we know that there is a fine line between authoritarianism and rigorous creativity. This article is concerned with discipline as praxis—its transformative possibility—and by what methodology it may be found, studied, and nurtured in classrooms and schools.

    Keywords: Diversity

  • Profiles and Perspectives: Mining with a Jeweler’s Eye: The Work of Lee Bennett Hopkins

    Janet Wong and Rebecca Kai Dotlich

    Abstract: This article highlights the work and accomplishments of Lee Bennett Hopkins, winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. It includes several of his original poems, a look at his work as an anthologist, and a list of his published books.

    Keywords: Literature, Writing

  • Professional Book Reviews: Disciplining Students, Teachers, and Schools: A Critical Look at Market-Based Reforms of the Language Arts

    Rebecca Rogers, Kathryn Pole, Aleshea Ingram, Martille Elias

    Abstract: The book reviews in this column are written by core members of a grassroots group of literacy educators committed to social justice in schools and communities called The Literacy for Social Justice Teacher Research Group (LSJTRG). As a group, they take on issues that are both local and global—the privatization of public education, the continued segregation of schools, and the de-professionalization of educators, to name a few. This collection of reviews reflects not just summaries of books, but also a snapshot of the work that LSJTRG has been involved with over the past year (Rogers, Mosley, Kramer, & LSJTRG, 2009). Books reviewed include Kevin Kumashiro’s The Seduction of Common Sense: How the Right Has Framed the Debate on America’s Schools, Ken Goodman and colleagues’ The Truth about DIBELS: What It Is, What It Does, and the Rethinking Schools publication, Keeping the Promise? The Debate over Charter Schools. The authors invite you to use these books to create a lively dialogue and debate in your community.

    Keywords: Pedagogy

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: Discipline and Characters in Children’s Literature

    Ann Neely, Bettie Parsons Barger, Lynne Bercaw, Mathew Espinosa, Melanie Hundley, Chris Iddings, and Robin Smith

    Abstract: Discipline . . . the teacher’s goal, perhaps. Why then do we often provide readers with characters, plots, and ideas that represent anything but discipline? Young readers love books where the characters may be unruly and unpredictable. They like stories where the characters get in and out of trouble. And they enjoy pondering the plot of a tale that may be troublesome to adult readers. Providing children and adolescents with characters who are undisciplined leads to lively discussions. The reviewers have tried to identify some of their recent favorites to balance this issue’s theme of “Disciplining the Language Arts.”

    Keywords: Literature, Elementary

  • In Closing…: A Change in Perspective: Me and Billy Lee Tottle

    Kathy Brashears

    Abstract: In this reflective essay, a teacher remembers how the behavior of a particular student in her first class eventually helped her stop worrying about how her children were walking in the halls and instead embrace her students as motivated readers and writers, full of the excitement, movement, and energy of discovering new things.

    Keywords: Pedagogy, Elementary

* 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