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Greetings from the editors
It is with great excitement that we embark on the editorship of Voices from the Middle. As former middle level English language arts teachers, we know well the joys and challenges of teaching middle level learners. We hope that Voices from the Middle will continue to serve you as a vibrant source of professional development, highlighting best practices in the craft of middle level teaching, pieces from middle grades and young adult authors, and even ideas, responses, and celebrations from the students we serve. We hope to do so with a growing attention to offering our readers interactive and multimodal content. We welcome your participation in growing YOUR journal in ways that make an impact on your students and your teaching.
—Sara Kajder (University of Georgia) and Shelbie Witte (Oklahoma State University)
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What’s Next in Teaching Reading
Middle level readers are an exacting bunch, and recent professional texts have helped teachers create experiences that offer study of process and skills along with time to simply read. We’ve constructed classroom libraries and collaborated with students to create useful anchor charts. But, what’s next? This issue invites us to share our most recent discoveries and lessons when it comes to growing the skills, practices, and identities of middle level readers. What kinds of assessment are most useful in helping students to understand and, eventually, self-regulate their practices? How are you using digital tools and technologies to support student readers of electronic and print texts? What are the texts that feed your students’ interests, imaginations, and craft as writers? We invite you to share the ways in which you and your students are working together to become even stronger and more thoughtful readers. Submission deadline: August 1, 2016
Building Our Community (25th Anniversary)
In celebration of the 25th volume of Voices from the Middle, this special issue will look back at what we have learned about middle level English teaching across the pages of VM, melding retrospectives from former VM authors and editors alongside the voices of the teachers who have moved their ideas into practice. Where most of this issue will be composed of invited pieces, we invite readers to keep an eye on social media calls on the VM website and through other media as we will be gathering your responses, your ideas, and your voices from in the middle for this special commemorative issue.
Submission deadline: January 1, 2017
Teachers Who Write (as Teachers of Writers)
In order to be the most effective teachers of writers, we need to be teachers who actively write. Our classrooms are filled with messy drafts of our own creation that we open to our students as collaborators, contributors, coeditors, and real writers. This issue invites us to share our lessons, celebrations, and struggles when it comes to the work of building vibrant, engaged, and authentic writing classrooms in which we, too, are participants. What does a writing classroom look like where teachers and students are writing and learning together? Which structures have you found particularly rich or useful? Where has the work become messy or nudged you into a space of failure as a teacher or as a writer? What does feedback look like? Are you engaging with authentic audiences? What is your experience in this work as a teacher and/or as a writer? We invite you to share your stories as teachers, as writers, and as colearners. We encourage you to write with your students for this issue. Their voices are an important part of our collective voices from the middle. Submission deadline: March 1, 2017
Urban Middle Level Education
(Guest Editors:Tonya Perry and Jamal Cooks)
Urban middle school students see the world through their own literacy practices—of reading, writing, and beyond—practices that uplift, connect, and illuminate what they bring to school and/or use out of school. Teachers purposefully and intentionally search, appreciate, and incorporate urban literacies into school and/or community spaces. This could be performing an original poetic piece about their personal experiences, creating a digitized critical analysis of a text, demonstrating a family recipe while narrating the story, or orchestrating a debate through music—a dual piece—to argue an important issue relevant to the community. David Kirkland reminds us that there is an “urgent need to better understand [urban] literacy practices from [students’] perspectives so that educators can rethink classroom literacy curriculum and instruction with them in mind.” We believe that this work is imperative to impact middle school urban youth. What are the urban literacies students display in or outside of your class? Are your classrooms experiencing increased characteristics of urban contexts? How do you build on the urban literacies in your classroom? How do you involve the community and families in these practices to support student learning? How has your instruction been impacted by incorporating urban literacies in your class? We invite you to share your practices with our readers for us all to learn more about the promise of urban middle school students. Submission deadline: June 1, 2017
What’s Next? Digital Tools, Social Media, and the Literacy Practices
The emergence of digital tools, social media, and new/next literacy practices in our English classrooms brought new opportunities for reading and writing alongside our students. Together, we’ve learned to situate our thinking on the practices that new tools invite (rather than the tools themselves) and we’ve connected, networked, and created. So now, what’s next? How do we update learning to be responsive and relevant for our learners who have grown up in literacy environments marked by access to tools that are dramatically different from what those before them have known? What is relevant and most needed? How do we select which “new” things to pay attention to? What do we do to build equity in access, in equipment, and in teacher capacity to purposefully and creatively develop digital and media literacy skills in student readers and writers? How do you put students’ digital content to work outside of your classroom spaces? What does innovation look like now? How do we ensure that we are doing better things and not just “things better” (which might largely be a moment of replicating non-digital lessons in digital spaces)? We encourage you to take risks in this issue and to think beyond the printed page in what you share/create. We invite submissions that encompass all sorts of modalities and media. Submission deadline: August 1, 2017