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Background Knowledge and Vocabulary
September 2012. Students differ in a number of ways, including their background knowledge. They have different experiences, have read different books, and have had different teachers. Yet we know that background knowledge is critical to understanding. Is there anything that teachers can do to build and activate their background knowledge so that relevant information is available for reading and learning? What ways, direct and indirect, have teachers ensured that student knowledge is valued and used? How do you determine what their background knowledge is, and what do you do to address these differences? Background knowledge is expressed through the words students know and use, so what might be the instructional relationship between vocabulary and background knowledge? We hope to highlight the importance of background knowledge, despite its current lack of popularity. We also hope to provide teachers with useful classroom ideas that will ensure students’ funds of knowledge are validated and extended. Deadline: September 1, 2011
Grouping in Middle School: Why? How?
December 2012. When middle school teachers are asked why they hesitate to incorporate productive group work into the instructional plan, they often mention problems with assessment, tasks, and questions about grouping practices. They wonder if the benefits are worth the effort. We invite papers that view group work as an essential part of the classroom community. Articles should address teachers’ concerns about grouping by providing examples that will offer an understanding of the purposes for grouping, how to form groups, and the multiple roles that students can play in a group as problem solvers and idea generators. Authors should also address how to manage, monitor, and assess productive group work in ways that scaffold and support learning for each student. Deadline: December 1, 2011
March 2013. Acceptance and respect are importance concepts students learn in middle school. They do so through their interactions with adults and peers in school as well as through the literature they read and discuss. How has tolerance education changed in the 21st century? What possibilities do Web 2.0 applications provide educators interested in social justice and multicultural education? How have you addressed cyberbullying? What professional experiences do teachers need to engage students in discussions about individual differences? Deadline: March 1, 2012
Teaching the Language of School and Academics
May 2013. Increasing numbers of students are coming to school from homes where English is not the dominant language. While the curriculum of the elementary school focuses on supporting the addition of English as a functional language, many students enter middle school without the fluency needed to read texts or to participate in vocalized discourse about the many content topics they are encountering. This lack of proficiency is not because of ineffective instruction or intellectual deficits of the students, but simply because acquiring the facilities needed for fluent academic functioning in a language can take years. Students must learn to read, talk about, write, and learn content information that is conveyed through inextricably entwined academic and content language. Therefore, the goal of this issue is to offer resources on and share examples of instruction that illustrate how to support middle school students in comprehending and using language that will promote their content area knowledge bases. Articles should demonstrate how to teach content information by explicitly showing how to help students understand the complexity of the abstract, dense, technical language that conveys the content. Deadline: May 1, 2012
Expanding the Canon: Virtue or Vice?
September 2013. English content has traditionally been defined by its canon—the texts deemed noteworthy by the discipline. But the canonical approach to teaching English has been questioned in recent decades as concerns about the reading and language arts development of every student have become reality. The Common Core State Standards introduce a new layer to this dilemma, with text complexity and exemplars highlighted. As a profession, it seems that we need to ask: Should there be a canon? Is a new canon warranted? What is the new canon? How does it jibe with reading development? What role should content literacy, and nonfiction, postmodern, and digital texts play? In what ways can students be best supported to foster comprehension of challenging texts? We invite manuscripts for this issue that critically examine the canon, its role in curriculum, and the challenges and triumphs of supporting educators and their students in making text meaningful. Deadline: September 1, 2012