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Language Arts, Vol. 89, No. 1, September 2011

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Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Shaping Early Literacy Policy and Practice

  • Call for Manuscripts

  • Thoughts from the Editors: The Forces at Work on Early Literacy Policy and Practice

    Abstract: Members of the new editorial team for Language Arts introduce themselves, emphasizing their belief that “language and literacy practices are critical, semiotic, and digital.” They also introduce this issue’s theme of “Shaping Early Literacy Policy and Practice,” stating that four powerful influences shape such policy: government, business, professional associations, and the workplace. Even with all this attention and investment, however, the achievement gap remains, and teachers struggle to deliver quality teaching in a prescriptive environment. Articles are included that provide readers with ways to challenge and work within existing contexts, while Richard Allington and P. David Pearson discuss the effects of policy on early literacy development. (The website includes their conversation in a podcast.) Donald Graves is also remembered by Tom Romano, and a podcast with Romano and Penny Kittle honor his memory. Research and Policy takes on the Common Core Standards, and both professional and children’s books are reviewed.

  • Post-Scripts: Teaching Reading in the Aftermath of Prescriptive Curriculum Policies

    Helen Maniates and Jabari Mahiri

    Abstract: NCBL and Reading First are negotiated in implementing beginning reading instruction. The article describes and analyzes how two critical conditions for creating opportunity—access to qualified teachers and rigorous academic curriculum—are met by examining the enactment and adaptation of a prescriptive core reading program disproportionately targeted at “low-performing” schools. Although prescriptive curricula attempt to ensure achievement, classroom implementation is mediated by teachers exercising professional prerogative. The quality of these mediations is determined by a teacher’s expertise in negotiating the tensions between fidelity of implementation and adaptation to local context. Through extensive classroom observations and teacher interviews, this case study illuminates fundamental issues of teacher quality as they are realized by an experienced teacher.

  • To Follow, Reject, or Flip the Script: Managing Instructional Tension in an Era of High-Stakes Accountability [FREE ACCESS]

    Jamy Stillman and Lauren Anderson

    Abstract: Considerable research indicates that high-stakes accountability policies have the capacity to influence language arts instruction, particularly in urban, high-needs schools where pressure to increase test scores tends to be most acute. This article utilizes Cultural Historical Activity Theory to critically examine the constraints and affordances of situating student teaching in such settings and explores how teacher educators might re-mediate preservice teachers’ learning about literacy instruction accordingly. Specifically, the article examines in depth one student teacher’s account of her own attempts to supplement a mandated reading program in an urban second-grade classroom and then reimagines how her practice might have looked had she been supported explicitly to manage tensions between accountability demands and robust literacy goals. The manuscript concludes with a discussion of the implications for teacher education practice in today’s policy context.

  • Don Graves Remembered

    Tom Romano

    Abstract: In the wake of Don Graves’s death in September, 2010, Romano reflects on what made him a great teacher, mentor, and human being. Filled with references to his books, his teaching methods, and his unmistakable energy and rapport with children, the article encourages us to revisit the theory and methods that allowed Don Graves to connect with children and coax out their stories and writing.

  • Finding the Heartbeat: Applying Donald Graves’s Approaches and Theories

    Allen Koshewa

    Abstract: Allen Koshewa writes about the impact that Donald Graves’s work has on his teaching, thinking, and learning. He offers specific ideas for how he implemented Graves’s ideas into his writing curriculum.

  • Research and Policy: Relating Policy to Research and Practice: The Common Core Standards [FREE ACCESS]

    Randy Bomer and Beth Maloch

    Abstract: Randy Bomer and Beth Maloch take a look at the Common Core Standards and the ways they are presently shaping the curriculum offered to young children in school. They suggest that the Common Core Standards in early literacy and early childhood classrooms represents a restricted image of college or academic literacy. Mainly, the standards’ authors expect students in college to be asked to write about texts—to give analytic reasoning about texts, arguing something with textual evidence to support their claims. This, as you will see, is a form of literacy that receives attention in early childhood as well.

  • Professional Book Reviews: Building Knowledge for Life

    Tasha Tropp Laman, Susi Long, Julia López-Robertson, Douglas Kaufman, and Ryan Colwell

    Abstract: This column features books that reflect strong convictions about teachers’ and teacher educators’ “nonnegotiable and moral imperative and mandatory professional responsibility” (Gay, 2010, p. 250) to “act now, without a moment’s hesitation” (p. 247) to transform classrooms and teacher education programs so that no child is lost in the so-called achievement gap. The works reviewed offer possibilities for building academically rigorous classrooms that honor and support children as they build on their funds of knowledge within the very real confines and constraints that so many educators experience on a regular basis. Included in this issue are: Change Is Gonna Come: Transforming Literacy Education for African American Students by Patricia A. Edwards, Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon, and Jennifer D. Turner; Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice by Geneva Gay; Latino Children Learning English: Steps in the Journey by Guadalupe Valdés, Sarah Capitelli, & Laura Alvarez; Teaching with Vision: Culturally Responsive Teaching in Standards-Based Classrooms edited by Christine E. Sleeter and Catherine Cornbleth; and Bedtime Stories and Book Reports: Connecting Parent Involvement and Parent Literacy, edited by Catherine Compton-Lilly and Stuart Greene. Additionally, Douglas Kaufman and Ryan Colwell review a number of seminal texts by Donald Graves, including: Writing: Teachers and Children at Work, A Fresh Look at Writing, Bringing Life into Learning: Creating a Lasting Literacy, and How to Catch a Shark: And Other Stories about Teaching and Learning.

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: Play-Themed Children’s Literature for Early Childhood Classrooms

    Jonda C. McNair, Alan R. Bailey, Lesley Colabucci, and Deanna Day

    Abstract: To offer a counter perspective of early literacy development and policy than is currently being promoted through the Common Core Standards and the push for nationalizing the curriculum, the authors focus on play-themed literature. This column features 12 picturebooks with protagonists who engage in pretend or imaginative play. It is hoped that these books will inspire young children and remind teachers of the importance of play in early childhood education.

  • Conversation Currents: The Casualties of Policy on Early Literacy Development

    Richard Allington and P. David Pearson

    Abstract: In this column and in the podcast, Allington and Pearson name the casualties of policies, such as Reading First and No Child Left Behind.  The impact is reduced time spent actually reading for meaning, the paucity of rich, meaningful discussions about literature between teachers and students, and an overemphasis on fidelity. Additionally, they discuss how DIBELS has woven itself into the fabric of early literacy policies and pedagogy and how teachers use DIBELS to monitor progress without evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness on developing readers.

* 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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