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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 2006

Cover Art for Voices from the Middle, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 2006

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Treasures: Past Lessons/Future Directions

  • Editor's Message: The Challenge of Change

    Kylene Beers

    Abstract: Acknowledging this final issue of her editorship as “a good bookend” to the first, Beers has turned the issue over to her well-known column editors for one last look at the previous seven years and the implications of change during that time for the future of adolescent literacy. She emphasizes the critical importance of literacy instruction, laments the lack of understanding in so many educational decision makers, and takes a stand for progress through quality teachers, in spite of the obstacles in our path.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Guilt, Government, and Grades: Musings from the Shore of the Main Stream

    Chris Crutcher

    Abstract: Crutcher, an advocate for children above all else, revisits a few of the most urgent issues facing teachers--Censorship, “No Child Left Without Life Threatening Test Anxiety,” Zero Tolerance, to name a few--and an encouraging word about addressing them. He believes teachers “have the toughest job in our culture,” and urges them to “rise up . . . get together” and speak with powerful voices to those who would make decisions without the expertise to make the best ones.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • What's the Next Big Thing with Literature Circles?

    Harvey Daniels

    Abstract: Long an advocate of literature circles, Daniels recaps the history of literature circles and cautions against the “terminology drift” that labels practices as literature circles when, in fact, they are not. He offers resources that anchor best practice in this area, and discusses how the concept is evolving and expanding. He also introduces us to “the next big thing” in student-led discussion: written conversation.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Too Little or Too Much? What Do We Know about Making Vocabulary Instruction Meaningful?

    Janet Allen

    Abstract: An expert on vocabulary instruction, Allen reviews what we know as a profession to be of value to students and offers three types of practices that demonstrate meaningful vocabulary instruction. She also describes how vocabulary words can be used as a rich source of assessment.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • "Oh, Brave New World That Has Such People In't!"

    Carol Jago

    Abstract: From the perspective of years in the classroom, Jago shares her journey of reflective teaching that led to a strong belief that all students need the “language of literature” incorporated into daily instruction. Having the vocabulary of intellectual thought at their disposal helps students think through complex issues and express their questions and conclusions. She also sees a future where more attention is paid to formative assessments—measures of student performance that occur while learners are in the process of acquiring a skill.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Literacy Coaching: Coming Out of the Corner

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

    Abstract: Being a literacy coach is demanding and can meet with resistance and challenge when a clear understanding of the job’s purpose, approach, and need for ongoing support are not clearly defined and understood by all parties. Ideally, a literacy coach listens and observes, then asks just the right questions to help a classroom teacher or inexperienced literacy coach reflect on the why of classroom practice and individualize instruction based on student needs. Resources, including Web resources, are suggested.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • What Teachers Need to Know about Motivation

    Jeff Wilhelm and Michael W. Smith

    Abstract: Motivation is key to engaging students in meaningful and productive work. Identifying individual students’ interests would be ideal, but in the real world, we need to create and sustain “situational interest.” Smith and Wilhelm reference their own research as well as other research that is contextually very different to show how the same principles of providing choice (to promote a personal connection) and supporting competence (through the teaching of immediately useful strategies) resulted in motivation that deepened learning.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • What's Right with Writing

    Linda Rief

    Abstract: Writing—and lots of it in all genres—is at the heart of the language arts curriculum and the skills of critical thinking that students need to develop to become prepared consumers and citizens. Rief reflects on her growth as a writer and teacher, and offers an overview of what we know about writing, what we need to do it well, what our students need to learn to do it well, and what obstacles are challenging our ability to make it happen.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • What Research Tells Us about Teaching Grammar

    Michael W. Smith and Jeff Wilhelm

    Abstract: The authors offer research studies and other documented evidence that teaching grammar without a meaningful context does not improve student writing, largely because that approach does not address the root causes of errors. Several resources that support this position and offer more productive strategies are summarized, including the authors’ forthcoming book.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, well, words can kill . . .

    Robert E. Probst

    Abstract: To those who would claim that the study of literature is impractical, Probst would respond vehemently, “No, it is essential.” The habit of thoughtful reading, insightful questioning, and critical evaluation are learned in English language arts classes where a variety of genres, characters, and situations push students to analyze and debate and ultimately learn more about what they value and what they believe. It is this habit of mind that turns out citizens capable of analyzing public language and participating in a successful democracy.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Reading Aloud: A Worthwhile Investment

    Teri S. Lesesne

    Abstract: Reading aloud is often considered an elementary classroom activity, but think again. Lesesne offers research and classroom evidence that confirm reading aloud as a valid strategy for all ages of students. She also includes annotated lists of professional books that provide rationales and suggestions for teachers, as well as books, recent and classic, that make great read-alouds.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Teaching Tools: One Last Time

    Jim Burke

    Abstract: Burke’s own teacher-research has resulted in solutions for real classroom situations. In this, his last contribution as a column editor for VM, he offers two more practical ideas for helping students achieve, and sends his readers off with advice to look to their own classrooms for solutions to the ever-present challenges of teaching.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Re-imagining Professional Development

    Leigh Van Horn

    Abstract: Van Horn deems three “recognitions” as essential to truly internalizing professional development: what and how we learn; the importance of individuals, contexts, and community in learning; and the ongoing nature of learning. Here, she provides an overview and examples of ideas about professional development and how we might develop ourselves as professionals. A look at professional development opportunities from NCTE is included.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Computers and Writing: The Research says YES!

    Nancy Patterson

    Abstract: Patterson reviews the research that supports the premise that students write more, write better, revise more, interact more productively, and write in more varied ways when using computer technology.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Student to Student: Never Can Say Goodbye . . . to Books

    Kim Ford

    Abstract: Feedback on Student to Student over the years attests to the value of letting students share their love of reading and their favorite books with other students who are looking for that next great read. Once again, nine students infuse their enthusiasm into reviews of great stories: The Golden Compass, Chasing Redbird, Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847; The Angel’s Command; A Week in the Woods; Running Out of Time; The Afterlife; A House Called Awful End; and Rats. Readers will be happy to know that Kim Ford will continue this valuable service under the new VM editorship.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Favorites from the Past That Inform the Future Middle Level Section Steering Committee

    Sandy Hayes, Chair

    Abstract: Sandy Hayes, chair of the middle level section, invited members of the middle level steering committee to select a favorite issue of VM and share its significance for their teaching. They have responded with enthusiasm about a variety of VM issues for a variety of reasons.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Index for Volume 13 [FREE ACCESS]

    Abstract: Abstract for this article is currently not available.

    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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