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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 18, No. 3, March 2011

Cover Art for Voices from the Middle, Vol. 18, No. 3, March 2011

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Honoring Student Voices

  • Call for Manuscripts

  • Editors' Message

    Roxanne Henkin, Janis Harmon, Elizabeth Pate, and Honor Moorman

  • Finding Voice: Learning about Language and Power

    Linda Christensen

    Abstract: Christensen discusses why teachers need to teach students "voice" in its social and political context, to show the intersection of voice and power, to encourage students to ask, "Whose voices get heard? Whose are marginalized?" As Christensen writes, "Once students begin to understand that Standard English is one language among many, we can help them access their multiple voices—the one they use on the basketball court, the one they use in speech and debate, the one they use at the kitchen table, and the ones they use in their writing."

  • “If Only It Weren’t Such a Chore . . .”: What Talented Eighth Graders Have to Say about Their ELA Classes

    Suzanne M. Rose

    Abstract: When asked to discuss their middle school language arts classes, talented eighth graders identified concerns and made suggestions for their teachers. Students voiced desire for choices in selecting reading materials, writing topics and genre.  They preferred having extended periods of time to engage in reading and writing activities, rather than short, disrupted periods.  As expected of middle level students, they prefer activities which allow them to talk to peers and work cooperatively.  In addition, they appreciate instructional tasks which are grounded in the real world and which allow them to think critically.  Students’ comments and suggestions are presented in their own words.

  • A Joy to Teach: My Experience with a Student Writer

    Jim Johnston

    Abstract: When you work with a motivated student, coaching this budding writer becomes sheer joy. As with all teaching, this joy lies in watching your student grow and mature. This is the story of just such a relationship.

  • Writing My Way to My Future

    Mariano Santiago

    Abstract: Our student author writes: “Writing has always been fun, but it became even more interesting for me when I began to meet the challenge of publication. It’s exciting to see something you wrote printed in a professional publication. My writing also led me to speak to teachers at a professional teachers’ conference. I can only wonder where my writing will take me next.”

  • Growing Literate Beings

    Christy L. Rush-Levine

    Abstract: This is an introduction to a high school student’s perspective on what the ideal language arts classroom should look like.  It is based on a middle school language arts classroom structured around a Nancie Atwell style workshop model.  The workshop model in the classroom was grounded in real life literacy experiences, allowed for choice in writing and reading, included daily shared reading experiences, fostered discussion about texts, and included open communication between teacher and students.  However the language taken from Atwell’s In the Middle is the true foundation of the workshop.

  • An Open Letter to Language Arts Teachers

    Gabrielle A. Habeeb

    Abstract: This article is a high school student’s perspective on what the ideal language arts classroom should look like and how it is the teacher who creates that environment.  It is based on her experience in a middle school language arts classroom that was structured around a Nancie Atwell style workshop model.  The workshop model in this classroom was grounded in real life literacy experiences, allowed for choice in writing and reading, included daily shared reading experiences, fostered discussion about texts, and included open communication between teacher and students.  It is these aspects of the workshop model that provided the literacy experiences that became part of who she is.

  • Three Student Perspectives: An Introduction

    Janet Hubbard

    Abstract: Middle school students love to be in the driver's seat, and when teachers can find ways to allow that in the classroom, the benefits are tangible. When I saw that Voices from the Middle had a call for manuscripts written from a student's perspective, I knew that the opportunity to have a wider audience of educators would invigorate my students, that the reflection on their literacy learning would make them more aware, conscious of it, and that the challenge of formatting and preparing a piece for publication would stretch them as writers. Many students chose this valuable process as an alternative to a different writing assignment in my class.

  • Next Steps in the Journey: Learning to Listen to Student Voices: Teaching with Our Mouths Shut

    Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

    Abstract: According to Wilhelm, a teacher’s power lies in learning to work with students, starting with listening. He recommends setting up conditions and mechanisms that help you learn from your students what they are learning, what challenges they are facing, and how best to teach them. Through inquiry, the classroom can become a vital and engaging intellectual community, and the learning that results is often “hard fun.”

  • Books for Young Adolescents: Honoring the Student Voices in Young Adult Literature

    Shawn Bird and Vickey M. Giles

    Abstract: Teenagers recognize when a voice sounds like an adult pretending to be a teen, and when the issues are tough, they won’t listen to anything but an authentic voice. Here are six young adult novels that stay true to the voices of teenagers: Once by Morris Gleitzman; Breathless by Lurlene McDaniel; Smile by Raina Telgemeier; Savvy by Ingrid Law; Willow by Julia Hoban, and The Seventh Level by Jody Feldman.

  • Stories along the Way: I reach, I climb, I reach again

    Penny Kittle

    Abstract: Just when you think you are making progress, making a difference, a student cheats, and you feel the air go out of you. It’s a good student, one you felt a connection with. So what happens when she apologizes, wants to take the quiz over? Teachers face tough decisions every day. Sometimes they turn out well; sometimes they don’t. In the end, we can only reach again.

  • New Puzzles, Next Moves: Assessing and Using Students’ Voices to Improve Your Curriculum

    Nancy Shanklin and Paige Gaynor

    Abstract: Pursuing student voice in your design of curriculum helps students take more ownership of their learning. Gaynor and Shanklin developed an open-ended survey to gather information about students’ growing understandings of the purposes for reading and writing and to solicit feedback about the year’s activities. The survey is presented here, along with information gleaned from the responses and how Gaynor used the results to retool for the next semester.

  • Student to Student: Girl Power!: Books with Strong Female Leads

    Kim Ford

    Abstract: Girls may be open to a wider variety of books than boys are, but they still want to see strong female characters—someone to relate to, bond with, emulate. Here are five titles in various genres that have one thing in common—female leads that will fill that bill.

  • Technology Toolkit: Learning Powered by Technology: The National Education Technology Plan

    Sandy Hayes

    Abstract: The final draft of the National Education Technology Plan was released on November 9. Unlike previous initiatives, this unprecedented and visionary document addresses five components—learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity—and promotes learning as powered by technology. Here is a glance at its main points as they reflect an awareness of our culture’s increasing reliance on technology.

  • Professional Reading for Middle Level Educators

    Student Voices, Penny Silvers with Priya M. Shah and Sarah Fox Sparber

    Abstract: Reviewed are books that present ways to use the many and varied literacies of reading, writing, music, art, and digital technologies to engage our students in powerful learning: Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students by Sara Kajder; The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age by William Kist; Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements: How to Teach What Really Matters about Character, Setting, Point of View, and Theme by Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm; The Magic of Middle School Musicals by Victor Bobetsky; Teaching Middle School Writers: What Every English Teacher Needs to Know by Laura Robb.

  • Bumps in the Road: What Make a Learning Community?

    Shannon Blady, guest author

    Abstract: Through sharing curriculum requirements and responsibilities for teaching, students in Blady’s class learned in-depth content knowledge, respect for other students, and the basic truth that “Teaching is not easy.”

  • Postcard from the Middle Level Section: There Is Honor and Honesty in Student Voice

    Michael J. Vokoun

    Abstract: Students don’t always have a choice—about what class to take, what to read, who will teach them. Sometimes, teachers don’t have a choice, either. But talking to other teachers . . . about any of it . . . brings a sense of community, triggers new enthusiasm and ideas, and reinserts choice into a teacher’s professional life and, ultimately, their students’ lives. NCTE offers myriad ways to join that community and find that support.

* 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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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts