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Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 5, May 2010

Cover Art for Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 5, May 2010

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Locating Standards in Language Arts Education

  • Call for Manuscripts

  • Thoughts from the Editors: Locating Standards: Following Students’ Learning

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

  • Discerning Writing Assessment: Insights into an Analytical Rubric

    Lucy K. Spence

    Abstract: Two teachers engage in assessment discussions based on an analytical rubric to assess an ELL student’s writing. Discourse analysis methods were used to analyze recorded/transcribed assessments and discussions. The teachers focused on descriptors for the rubric’s lowest scores, neglecting their own knowledge and experience with English learners. As an alternative, a sociocultural oriented assessment is discussed including implications for the classroom.

    Keywords: Assessment, Elementary, Pedagogy, Standard, Writing

  • Meeting Academic Standards through Peer Dialogue at Literacy Centers

    Caroline Maurer

    Abstract: Literacy centers are widely used by teachers seen as being effective in promoting literacy (Pressley, Rankin, & Yokoi, 2000); yet little research has been completed on how or why they are effective. Based on the social cultural constructivist theory posited by Vygotsky (1978), and research theories of Dyson (1993), the peer dialogue at the intersection of the unofficial social world of children and the official school world were analyzed to determine how peer dialogue supported literacy learning. Finding indicated that 47 of the 79 first-grade indicators from the Ohio Academic Content Standards for English Language Arts were utilized and strengthened through peer dialogue. This research can add to classroom practice as teachers see the impact of peer dialogue at literacy centers in supporting both literacy skills and literate behaviors.

    Keywords: Assessment, Elementary, Literacy, Pedagogy, Standard

  • Activists and Writers: Student Expression in a Social Action Literacy Project

    Shira Eve Epstein

    Abstract: This article centers the stories of two eighth grade students in the context of a social action literacy project.  Their teacher designed curriculum that scaffolded opportunities for them to address English language arts standards while speaking out for social change.  The students’ responses to the project reveal their civic literacy practices, as they articulated complex political understandings through the application of reading, writing, and speaking skills and met related standards.  The students and teacher’s experiences in the project also call for an expanded view of language use in standards-based literacy instruction so to support students’ civic engagement.  Ultimately, the study of the project illustrates how English language arts curricula can reflect multiple paradigms, and the paper ends with related recommendations for teachers committed to both students’ literacy practices and civic expression.

    Keywords: Elementary, Literacy, Middle, Pedagogy, School/Community, Standard, Writing

  • Research Directions: Fulfilling the Potential of Standards-Based Education: Promising Policy Principles

    Kathryn H. Au and Sheila W. Valencia

    Abstract: A great deal has been learned about how standards, assessment, and resources can be used in combination to make a difference for students, teachers, and schools.  It is in this context that the authors make the case for a set of interrelated, research-based policy principles to support schools in improving students’ literacy achievement through standards-based education. Underlying these recommendations is their strong belief that the goal of standards-based education is to improve the quality of instruction provided to all children rather than to simply measure and report achievement or reward and punish students, teachers, and schools.   The authors’ focus is on the application of these principles to federal and state policies that can set the stage for positive change in districts and schools.  The authors argue that such an ambitious strategy must be attempted if the benefits of standards-based education are to accrue to all students.  Their proposal for “getting standards right” centers on four principles to guide the formulation of policy: aim for Horizon 2, do a few things well, attend to conditions for success, and assess for more than accountability.

    Keywords: Assessment, Literacy, Research, Standard

  • Focus on Policy: For the Sake of Heaven: Locating Standards

    Alan A. Block

    Abstract: This essay addresses issues central to educational discourse in the United States by calling on texts and forms of inquiry generally unfamiliar and often unrecognized in current conversations regarding schooling and education, the Jewish tradition of Talmudic studies. Although Rabbis in this tradition never doubted the necessity of standards, their advocacy of them in the Talmudic context offers a perspective distinct from that prevalent in our current, often contentious, conversations.  The essay contains a brief history of the idea of curricular standards and some thoughts about what it means, as suggested by the issue theme, to “locate” standards.

    Keywords: Assessment, School/Community, Standard

  • Profiles and Perspectives: Educators’ Voices on 21st Century Literacies

    William Bass, Franki Sibberson, Sandy Hayes, Becky McCraw, Shelbie Witte, Diane Waff, Katrina Bartow Jacobs, and Lorraine Wilkinson

    Abstract: In this Profiles and Perspectives piece, a group of NCTE members describes their process in developing a framework—practical guidelines—for applying the principles of the NCTE’s position statement on 21st Century Literacies to classrooms. Through a series of information and vignettes, they tell of the project’s background and give several specific examples of its use. The full framework can be found at

    Keywords: Assessment, Elementary, Literacy, Middle, Pedagogy, Standard, Technology, Writing

  • Professional Book Reviews: Locating Standards That Elevate Individual and Social Development

    Martille Elias, Tisha Lewis, Kate Pahl, Inda Schaenen and Rebecca Rogers

    Abstract: The three books reviewed in this column examine the role educators play in creating and promoting learning experiences that elevate individual and social development. The first book titled Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices, edited by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knoble delves into complexities of supporting language arts curriculum that supports digital literacies and challenges readers to think more about, not only the theoretical underpinnings for including digital literacies in the classroom, but also provides examples of how to do so in an effective way.  The second title, Research for Political Action and Social Change, edited by Mollie V. Blackburn and Caroline T Clark, presents literacy as inseparable from either local or global influences, and demonstrates literacy as transformative for social change and political action. The last title in this column is Children, Language, and Literacy: Diverse Learners in Diverse Times by Celia Genishi and Anne Haas Dyson. In this book, the authors challenge the one-size-fits-all curriculum that too often stems from the current culture of standardized tests. Telling stories of children whose literacy learning is impossible to standardize, these authors present compelling arguments for the teacher as the maker of standards based on the children they teach.

    Keywords: Literacy, Pedagogy, Standard

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: Books That Set Their Own Standards

    Detra Price-Dennis, Marlene Beierle, Maggie Chase, Eun Hye Son, and Jackie Wissman

    Abstract: Quality children’s literature is at the cornerstone of any thriving classroom. Literature that is beautifully written, with multidimensional characters who invite the reader into their lives to laugh, cry, and dream with them, should line the shelves of every classroom library.  For this themed issue of Language Arts, Locating Standards, we have compiled a list of award winning children’s literature that exceeds curriculum standards, and embodies characteristics that raise the literary imagination.  We selected books that defy the standards, thus crafting a collective set of their own. We compiled titles from the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Geisel, Jane Addams, Newbery, Pura Belpre, Schneider, Tomas Riviera, and award lists from 2007-2009. We then cross checked our list with books that were already reviewed for Language Arts volume 86-87, as not to publish multiple reviews for the same book.

    Keywords: Elementary, Literature, Middle, Standard

  • In Closing…: What’s In a Name?

    Cynthia Grady

    Abstract: The author reflects on how she learned about syllables as a child.  Through her exploration, she reveals the deep, even poetic perspectives children bring to language that reach far beyond the basic, routinized pedagogies some teachers may use.

    Keywords: Assessment, Elementary, Language, Pedagogy, Standard

* 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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