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Language Arts, Vol. 88, No. 5, May 2011

Cover Art for Language Arts, Vol. 88, No. 5, May 2011

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Stories of Achievement

  • Call for Manuscripts

  • Thoughts from the Editors: Defining Achievement in Language Arts Education

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

  • Paying Attention to Procedural Text: Critically Reading School Routines as Embodied Achievement

    Sarah Vander Zanden and Karen E. Wohlwend

    Abstract: In this article, we look closely at the way power circulates through school routines with ordinary texts in everyday moments. We address texts that support different types of achievement and how critical literacy helps us redefine achievement and examine what we’re doing with texts and students in classrooms. We interrogate the notion of achievement outside the realm of traditional markers of school success (i.e. tests, academic content knowledge, etc.). We argue that more inclusive interpretations of achievement requires critical reading of texts all around us, in the language that constructs our worlds, from the products we buy to the most mundane routines. Using three elementary teaching vignettes: a teacher shopping for pencil boxes and back-to-school supplies, a first grader posting a complaint to call a class meeting, and a fifth grade class responding to a memo about a new school policy, we examine power relations in texts and routines that highlight achievement. The article includes critical routines with potential for empowering and diversifying opportunities for success.

    Keywords: Language, Literacy, Elementary

  • “Writing That Matters”: Collaborative Inquiry and Authoring Practices in a First-Grade Class

    María Paula Ghiso

    Abstract: This article explores how a first grade class re-defines what constitutes writing achievement.  The young children’s authoring practices upended notions of writing as the individual production of “model” texts with predetermined features, as was emphasized in curricular guidelines and high-stakes assessments, and of writing as disembedded from personal histories, collective inquiries, and civic concerns.  Instead, being an author was anchored on collaborative and personally-relevant notions of “what matters” to students. Young children were able to use writing to investigate their classroom and neighborhood communities, in the process inquiring into the significance of human relationships and the varied purposes to which they might put their written work.

    Keywords: Literacy, Writing, Elementary

  • Trampling Over or Traveling With?: Reconsidering the Culture of Achievement

    Kathryn Herr and Fernando Naiditch

    Abstract: Low-income male students of color are among the populations experiencing the least amount of success in the current arrangements of school, described by some as part of the “the boy crisis” in education. This article draws on a year long ethnographic study of a single-sex, all-male classroom in a public middle school. It explores their experiences in a Humanities class (Language Arts and Social Studies) where, with their teacher, the boys gradually constructed a collective sense of collaboration and achievement.  The paper responds to Gutierrez’s (2008) call for a new vision of educating youth that includes redesigning what counts as the teaching and learning of literacy. The authors, using Gutierrez’s conception of “a third space” as well as work by Freire (1970, 1994), describe how this class recreated their classroom space in the midst of school wide practices and curricula driven by high-stakes assessment.

    Keywords: Diversity, Literacy, Pedagogy

  • Poem: I Am from a Writing School

    Julie Johnson

  • Research Directions: When Achievement Data Meet Drama and Arts Integration

    Elaine Walker, Carmine Tabone, and Gustave Weltsek

    Abstract: In this research, two questions related to arts integration are studied: First, the extent to which sixth and seventh grade students' language arts and mathematics performance, as well as their engagement with school are positively impacted by classroom settings in which theater strategies are integrated into language arts instruction; and second, the extent to which students are able to sustain their learning gains in language arts once they return to a traditional language arts learning environment.  The research is based on a study in which four schools in an urban school district that has a high poverty level, were randomly selected to participate in a federally funded arts integration project; and four schools were randomly assigned to the control group.   A total of 28 classrooms and 1020 students were in the study sample.  The findings indicate that being in an arts-integrated classroom increased the odds of students passing the state assessment in language arts by 77 percent and by   42% in mathematics.  Students who exited the arts integrated project were able to sustain their learning gains once they returned to a traditional instructional setting.  For example, seventy-eight% of eighth graders whose language arts instruction as seventh graders included the use of theater strategies were proficient in language arts on the eighth-grade assessment, compared to 69% of students who were instructed using traditional pedagogy.

    Keywords: Literacy, Pedagogy, Middle School

  • Focus on Policy: Listening to Echoes: Teaching Young Black Men Literacy and the Problem of ELA Standards

    David E. Kirkland

    Abstract: The default image to which many ELA standards adhere lacks the complexity and sensitivity to account for the diverse range of students that occupy ELA classrooms. For young Black men, such standards poise a unique threat as they fail to reflect the social and cultural dimensions that factor into Black male literacy practices. In so doing, Kirkland argues that ELA standards help reproduce the dissonance and chronic failures that characterize Black male school experiences and shapes the tragedies that further burden Black male life. Kirkland complicates the notion of standards by offering the narrative of a young Black male, Rashad, illustrating how his practices of literacy are found in the echoes of an older brother, but leveraged against the standardized literacy practices of the classroom. In order to be useful to Black males, Kirkland concludes, ELA standards must be rewritten with Black males in mind, drawing from their literacy biographies and offering opportunities to reformat the echoes that hide in the pulse of their beings into a rich range of socially and culturally sensitive practices that promote healing, hope, and justice.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, Literacy

  • Profiles and Perspectives: Spilling Ink: Writers in the Play Zone

    Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter

    Abstract: Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, authors of SPILLING INK: A YOUNG WRITER'S HANDBOOK, discuss techniques that can help teachers more fully engage students in creative writing.  Mazer explores young writers’ fear of making mistakes and straying from mainstream writing rules. She suggests that removing expectations from the writing process and allowing students to follow their own natural bents will help them to gain confidence in their writing. Potter discusses ways to work with children’s natural instinctive playfulness in order to keep them connected to the writing process. She also suggests various writing exercises, including writing in different venues and collaborative writing. The authors conclude by stating their conviction that when students experience the joy of writing, they then become receptive to tackling the more difficult aspects of the craft.

    Keywords: Pedagogy, Writing

  • Professional Book Reviews: Counterstories of Achievement

    Marcelle M. Haddix, Kelly Chandler-Olcott, Timothy K. Eatman, and Kathleen Cullen

    Abstract: This column features professional resources for literacy educators seeking to look beyond traditional assessments of academic achievement to explore alternative stories of success and achievement measured in many forms.  The texts reviewed spotlight academic success in unexpected spaces (How It’s Being Done:  Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools by Karin Chenoweth), highlight courageous leadership (The School Leaders Our Children Deserve: Seven Keys to Equity, Social Justice, and School Reform by George Theoharis), examine the role of race and culture in addressing the achievement gap (Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America's Classrooms by Tyrone C. Howard), and further complicate questions about whether charter school networks can improve educational outcomes for all children (Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough). Collectively these texts illuminate counternarratives of achievement and call for literacy educators to examine measures of successfully preparing young people to live productive and meaningful lives in this 21st century global society.

    Keywords: Diversity, Literacy, School/Community

  • Children's Literature Reviews: Tales of Achievement

    Denise Davila, Theresia Anggraini, Bettie Parsons Barger, Allyson Bowcutt, Hilary Brewster, and Patricia Vocal

    Abstract: Achievement takes on several different forms, and it mirrors a varying range of perspectives. Many of the books reviewed here present tales of achievement that highlight qualities such as ingenuity, perseverance, integrity, agency, bravery, and creativity. This set of reviews features a mixture of recently published titles that will provide children and adolescents an array of viewpoints, each of which uniquely defines achievement.

    Keywords: Literature

* 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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