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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 14, No. 2, December 2006

Cover Art for Voices from the Middle, Vol. 14, No. 2, December 2006

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Postcards of Effective Teaching: We're on Our Way

  • Editors' Message: A Postcard from the Editors

    Roxanne Henkin, Janis Harmon, and Elizabeth Pate, editors

    Abstract: The VM editors place this month’s contributions in a context of “postcards,” highlights from our journey toward new understandings about literacy and learning.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Youth in the Middle: Our Guides to Improved Literacy Instruction?

    Donna E. Alvermann

    Abstract: Alvermann urges teachers to “listen to their own students for guidance in adapting their instruction,” calling it both “feasible and worthwhile.” She says, “But having personal access to good directional ideas is not enough. Finding ways to turn those ideas into sound instructional practices (based on principles derived from equally sound research) requires something more.” She recommends these “four principled practices for the journey”: 1) Middle graders needs to generate and share their ideas about complex content area texts with others. 2) Middle graders thrive in active learning environments. 3) Middle graders need support in developing a critical awareness of what they read, view, and hear. 4) Middle graders need opportunities to connect literacies that span in- and out-of-school learning.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • A Journey down the Yellow Brick Road: What Oz Can Teach Students about Literary Techniques

    Bryan Gillis

    Abstract: Gillis has found a wealth of instruction material within the beloved classic novel (and its many subsequent permutations) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and demonstrates how teachers can “take advantage of the inherent appeal of this classic film and its easy accessibility . . . to introduce and reinforce literary techniques to middle level students.” He offers ideas around the concepts of alliteration, similes, puns, idioms, symbolism, foreshadowing, irony, and paradox.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • What's in a Name? A Whole Lot of Talking, Researching, and Writing

    Lesley Roessing

    Abstract: Nothing interests middle schoolers more than themselves, so a project that has them investigating their own names proves to be motivation for research, interviews, and writing. In the process, students find a reason to care about organization, writing conventions, writing style, and personal reflection.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Cross-Curricular Literacy: Writing for Learning in a Science Program

    Shelley Stagg Peterson and Leonora Rochwerger

    Abstract: Teacher educator and researcher Peterson works with eighth-grade science teacher, Rochwerger, who believes that writing is a learning tool that will enable her students to become scientifically literate. Here, we see this belief played out through an action research project that found students using a genre of their choice to write about what they had learned during hands-on activities in the classroom, and analyzing a science fiction story for scientific principles. The authors conclude with a list of recommendations for teachers who would like to teach writing using content area topics or who would like to collaborate with science teachers in their schools.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Tapping into Students' Motivation: Lessons from Young Adolescents' Blogs

    Sylvia Read

    Abstract: In an effort to use adolescents’ enthusiasm about blogging to design more effective writing experiences, Read analyzed its appeal and found that blogging satisfied two of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”: relatedness needs and growth needs. By studying the blogs of 6 adolescents, Read also discovered that the process of writing in blogs helps students grow as writers and improved their technology skills, even for those who have been historically reluctant to write. If blogging per se is not a viable option, at least use the lessons it teaches: Make writing assignments personal (or self-chosen), relevant, flexible. Share writing—knowing others will read or hear the work is motivation to do one’s best. Allow for rough drafts and quick feedback. In the end, writing under safe and motivating conditions can validate our middle level students.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Out of the Narrow Tunnel and into the Universe of Discourse

    Denise Maltese

    Abstract: Through reading and reflecting on the words of Atwell, Rief, Moffett, and Graves, Maltese began to think like a teacher-researcher, and questioned her writing workshop practices. Once she began to consider audience as a motivating factor, writing became more meaningful for her students, encompassing a wide range of possibilities. Working from a foundation of student-centered learning, Maltese believes “school stops being an academic exercise and transforms into a place where we practice real world writing . . . and real world thinking.” She describes how this philosophy plays out with a specific student example.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Next Steps in the Journey: Living Our Bottom Lines for Teaching

    Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, editor

    Abstract: Wilhelm proposes that “we use the concept of ‘bottom lines’ as a heuristic to think about our teaching every day: what did we do that fit our bottom lines? What would we have done differently?” He argues for renaming our subject “personal studies” so that everything would connect to our students’ need to explore and express their own identities, and would focus on “relatedness” and having “hard fun” that would make our work meet both personal and disciplinary standards.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Books for Young Adolescents: On the Road: The Journey of Adolescence

    Teri Lesesne, editor

    Abstract: This month’s books are about new beginnings, about journeys—external and internal—that offer hope on the road toward adulthood.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Stories Along the Way: Postcards from My Classroom

    Penny Kittle, editor

    Abstract: Kittle offers a “first assignment of the year” writing exercise that confines students to the space of a single postcard to capture a friend or family member in a single telling moment. Then she demonstrates with postcard introductions to three students.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • New Puzzles, Next Moves: How Do We Talk with Students to Help Them Learn?

    Nancy Shanklin, editor

    Abstract: Shanklin explains how we can use talk—thoughtful and immediately relevant talk—with our students to elaborate on content and on literacy strategies. She offers specific strategies and guides for increasing productive talk and shows how it deepens engagement and learning.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Student to Student: Postcards from the World of Fantasy

    Kim Ford, editor

    Abstract: If students are looking for books that will transport them into a mysterious fantasy world, one of these reviews might be just the postcard they need.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Technology Tool Kit: Improving Writing:Online Bulletin Boards

    Sandy Hayes, editor

    Abstract: Using an online bulletin board to conduct peer conferences increases the efficiency and quality of responses and gives students a context of peers’ writing to help gauge their own ideas and progress.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Professional Reading for Middle Level Educators: Multiple Ways of Learning and Knowing

    Penny Silvers, editor

    Abstract: With a common thread of engagement and meaningful learning, Silvers reviews Going with the Flow: How to Engage Boys (and Girls) in Their Literacy Learning by Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm; New Literacies in Action: Teaching and Learning in Multiple Media by William Kist; Telling Pieces: Art as Literacy in Middle School Classes by Peggy Albers and Sharon Murphy; Out of This World: Why Literature Matters to Girls by Holly Virginia Blackford.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Bumps in the Road: Reading Incentives Don’t Necessarily Grow Readers

    Wanda Hedrick, editor

    Abstract: Hedrick outlines the unintended flaws in computer incentive programs designed to encourage students to read on their own.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary


    Sandy Hayes, editor

    Abstract: Hayes anticipates the invigorating effects of the Annual Convention at Opryland in November, welcomes new members to the Middle Level Section Steering Committee and thanks the outgoing members, encourages participation in the Promising Young Writers program, and gives a sneak peek at NCTE’s soon-to-be-unveiled Pathways project.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary

  • Call for Manuscripts - Voices from the Middle, December 2006

    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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