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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 13, No. 2, December 2005

Cover Art for Voices from the Middle, Vol. 13, No. 2, December 2005

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Teaching, Testing, and Triumphs

  • EDITOR'S MESSAGE: The "I" of the Hurricane

    Kylene Beers

    Abstract: Editor Kylene Beers finds perspective in the tragedy of recent hurricanes and the news of Rosa Parks’s death. That perspective leads her to urge—for herself and others—the will and determination to take a stand on important issues. This month, that issue is the testing craze: the damage it does and the meaningful teaching it prevents. She asks us to read this issue to learn more about the process of teaching that produces better readers and writers . . . and more successful students.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • A HAND UP: There's Always a Hurricane Somewhere

    Chris Crutcher, editor

    Abstract: Chris Crutcher recognizes the dramatic steps taken to address the needs of children whose homes, families, and school life were disrupted by hurricanes this fall, but implores us to remember that hurricanes of all kinds disrupt children’s lives everywhere, every day, and we need to be mindful of their needs as well.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • The Missing Link: Standards, Assessment, and Instruction

    Douglas Fisher

    Abstract: Over a two-year period, the teachers at John Adams Middle School wrote and administered eight common assessments across content areas and met to discuss the results of each. By linking standards, assessments, and instruction, teachers were able to identify areas of need for specific students and address those needs.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • The Middle School High Five: Strategies Can Triumph

    Amy Goodman

    Abstract: A literacy support teacher leads a district-wide initiative to organize content-area teachers in an effort to help their students become better readers by offering instruction and practice in five reading strategies across the curriculum. At the end of the 10-week program, teachers felt that students’ comprehension had improved, and many felt some of the credit for improved reading scores could be traced to the effort.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • The Seven Cs of Comprehension

    Michele Farmer and Jackie A. Soden

    Abstract: In an effort to develop a reading strategy that would enhance literacy and motivate learners, the authors focused on the logical stages of reading and comprehending text: Connect, Clarify, Consider, Collect, Converse, Conclude, Cite the source. Teachers observed academic gains they attributed to this strategy, and they plan to expand its use in the future.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • You Oughta Use the Periods and Stuff to Slow Down: Reading Fluency through Oral Interpretation of YA Lit

    F. Todd Goodson and Lori Atkins Goodson

    Abstract: The authors acted on their belief that familiarity with text and repeated readings of it would help students with fluency, comprehension, and confidence. They assembled a list of “cuttings”excerpts of full-length books from which seventh-grade students could choose to prepare a public reading. After working alone, in pairs, and reading for a third-grade “buddy,” this limited sampling of students showed improved confidence and marked reading improvement.

    Keywords: Literature, Middle, Secondary

  • Adding the Science of Learning to the Art of Teaching

    Judith Willis

    Abstract: Neurologist and middle school teacher Willis, frustrated by mandates handed down by “non-experts” who didn’t know what she knew about how the brain works, developed strategies to rekindle the spark of leaning and escape the rote nature of teaching to the test. By encouraging practice to create an accessible neural circuit, finding ways to capture students’ attention, and asking thoughtful questions that will help them engage with the topic, Willis succeeded in engaging students and helping them to retain the knowledge presented.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Chicken Bone Epiphanies: How the Lives of the Eminent Can Inform the Teaching of English

    Lawrence A. Baines

    Abstract: Caught in the fear that “I was headed for an inconsequential life of mediocrity,” Baines began to study the writing of philosophers, thinkers, and prophets who seemed to have found a sense of purpose and peace. Through that reading, Baines identified characteristics common to all of them: focus, resilience, the desire to make a positive contribution, and the conscious decision to reserve quiet time for reflection. As he reflected on his reading, he concluded that these same characteristics also promote learning, and should be cultivated in the classroom.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • ONE LAST THOUGHT: Consequential Validity: Weighing the Sheep, or Feeding Them, Too?

    Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, editor

    Abstract: Standardized tests are probably here to stay, but Wilhelm contends that we must work to balance these with what will be more appropriate, responsive, and rigorous standardized and local level assessments that match what real readers and writers do and that rely more on the expertise of teachers.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • THE WORD MARKET: Teaching for Transfer: Bridging Best Practice and High-Stakes Testing

    Janet Allen, editor

    Abstract: The best way to develop a strong vocabulary is to read. A lot. But even that can be more effective if you teach students to use context clues to internalize those words and transfer them to new contexts.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • TEACHER'S TOOLBOX: Teaching Test-Taking: The Personal Reading Assessment

    Jim Burke, editor

    Abstract: “Tests are texts that students must learn to read just as they do poems, novels, or essays.” Here, Burke offers a Personal Reading Assessment tool that invites discussion about reading in general and tests in particular, and supports discussions about importance and precision in answering questions.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • THE LITERATURE CIRCLE: The English Teacher's Red Pen

    Harvey Daniels, editor

    Abstract: Daniels urges us to leave the red pen in the desk and ensure that kids understand the purpose of writing: communication. Give students an authentic reason to write and a real audience, and the writing will be meaningful. Meanwhile, resist the pressure from parents, administrators, and legislators—everyone who remembers the blood-red papers of their youth to mark every little flaw. What they’ve forgotten is, that didn’t work for them, and it’s not working now.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • LITERATURE: ELEMENTS OF STYLE: Raising Test Scores One Element at a Time

    Carol Jago, editor

    Abstract: Literary terms appear on standardized tests all the time, but the secret to preparing students to answer those questions doesn’t lie in learning definitions, but rather in using the terms every day in classroom discussions about literature. More than just learning the terms and using them in multiple contexts, students who know this vocabulary also have an organizing framework for understanding story.

    Keywords: Literature, Middle, Secondary

  • RESPONSE TO READING: Testing . . .

    Bob Probst, editor

    Abstract: The biggest danger in testing is that the emphasis on it often convinces students (and parents) that the most important result is a grade. Using a frustrating experience as a scuba instructor as an example, Probst reminds us that meaning, understanding, and reasoning are what we’re trying to teach. We’ve lost the meaning when the test is the purpose and not just a tool.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • WRITERS' WORKSHOP: Writing—That's the Real Test

    Linda Rief, editor

    Abstract: “Good writing comes from caring enough to craft [one’s writing] to the best of one’s ability.” If only that were the climate in every classroom! Rief remembers the day an absurd standardized writing prompt pushed her and her colleagues into action, and she outlines the steps she has resolved to take to prepare her students for writing . . . and testing . . . ever since.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • FROM THE COACHES' CORNER: Collaborative Literacy Coaching: Focusing on Learners with Special Needs

    LeAnne Robinson, Kathy Egawa, Marsha Riddle Buly, and Tracy Coskie, editors

    Abstract: Too often, specialists such as special education or TESOL teachers are left “out of the loop” when it comes to coordinating educational plans for students. Many literacy coaches, however, are finding success by collaborating across specialties. This column includes several practical suggestions for establishing more collaborative educational communities.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • TECH CONNECT: Computerized Writing Assessment: Technology Gone Wrong

    Nancy Patterson, editor

    Abstract: An avid fan of technology, Patterson still warns against computerized essay scoring, recognizing that no matter how sophisticated, it cannot read for content. She offers several examples of computer scoring gone wrong, and urges teachers to fight it in their districts and states.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEWS: Teachers Who Triumph

    Leigh Van Horn, editor

    Abstract: Reviewed are: Getting to Excellent: How to Create Better Schools by Judith A. Langer; Learning along the Way: Professional Development by and for Teachers by Diane Sweeney; Teachers Organizing for Change: Making Literacy Learning Everybody’s Business by Cathy Fleischer; Taming the Standards: A Commonsense Approach to Higher Achievement K–12 by Janet Hurt; Promising Practices for Urban Reading Instruction edited by Pamela A. Mason and Jeanne Shay Schumm.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • BOOK TALK: Testing: Trials and Triumphs in Literature

    Teri S. Lesesne, editor

    Abstract: Lesesne believes that books offer students a safe place to face challenges, and offers reviews of 12 books in which characters confront tough issues, including loss, abuse, violence, and bullying.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • STUDENT TO STUDENT: Time Well Spent

    Kim Ford, editor

    Abstract: “Reading reinforces citizenship, compassion, sportsmanship—none of which are on The Test.” When a child gets lost in a book, transformations slowly take place. These nine students share a book that made a difference to them.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • MIDDLE LEVEL SECTION NEWS

    Howard M. Miller, Chair

    Abstract: Thanks for colleagues from outgoing chair Howard Miller; a plea to readers to get involved in the myriad professional issues being addressed by active NCTE initiatives.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

* 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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