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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 19, No. 2, December 2011

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Table of Contents

Issue Theme: The Faces of Intervention

  • Calls for Manuscripts

  • Editors’ Message

  • Reading Intervention in the Middle Grades

    Richard L. Allington

    Abstract: At the minimum, one of every four middle school students will struggle to cope with the grade-level textbooks they are typically assigned to read. Few reading programs used in middle schools have any research evidence that they actually improve student reading proficiencies. Only three programs had even modest evidence of a positive effect, and none of these three targeted decoding proficiencies as the primary problem. There seems to be no reliable research evidence available for over 100 commonly used commercial reading programs. In lieu of using a commercial reading program, Allington offers five research-based principles for providing effective middle school reading instruction, both across the school day and during intervention sessions.

  • Reading and Talking about Books: A Critical Foundation for Intervention [FREE ACCESS]

    Cheryl L. Wozniak

    Abstract: Reluctant and struggling readers, many of whom are boys, are placed in reading intervention classes; however, often the environmental conditions of these intervention classrooms are not conducive for fostering a student’s love for reading. This article describes Cambourne’s optimal conditions for literacy learning and the results from implementing a 6-week reading intervention built upon these conditions. The classroom intervention consisted of teacher book talks, interactive read-alouds, independent reading with unrestricted choice of books, and partner talk. Three of the six sets of book talks and read-alouds were in genres or text formats of high interest to reluctant boy readers: graphica, information and sports, and scary/horror/mystery. Survey and interview data from students and teachers suggest that giving students access to books of high interest, unrestricted choice of texts, and time in school to read and talk about books can improve students’ reading attitude, reading self-efficacy, and amount of reading. The teachers’ reading beliefs and practices also changed. After the study, both teachers planned to implement the instructional strategies they learned from the study.

  • What Not to Read: A Book Intervention [FREE ACCESS]

    Gay Ivey

    Abstract: Based on her experiences with the transformation of 8th-grade reading in one school, Ivey advocates for a substantial shift in what students read in English class and what is available to them in school.  Middle school classrooms are in dire need of a book makeover, and this should be the first order of business when considering what to do for readers who remain inexperienced and unmotivated.  The intervention begins with us, their teachers.  This article includes six recommendations for how we might transform our own knowledge while restyling classrooms with the texts that will fuel students’ interests and curiosities.

  • Collaborative Strategic Reading: Fostering Success for All

    Subini Annamma, Amy Eppolito, Janette Klingner, Amy Boele, Alison Boardman, and Stephanie J. Stillman-Spisak

    Abstract: The authors interviewed 17 middle school reading and language arts teachers as part of a larger study on an evidence-based intervention called Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR). CSR is a multi-component reading instructional model combined with cooperative grouping and peer discussion.  We show from the teacher interviews that CSR has benefits for all middle school students, especially those historically at risk for school failure, including English Language Learners, struggling learners, and students designated with a special education label. The teachers’ perceived benefits for these students included additional oral language exposure for ELLs through interaction with peers, access to different levels of text for students in special education, and explicit strategy instruction for struggling learners. The teachers also commented on CSR’s positive impact on their classroom communities: CSR fostered cooperation, built students’ confidence and self-esteem, and facilitated increased student engagement.

  • Using a Network of Strategies Rubric to Become a Self-Regulated Learner

    Maribeth Cassidy Schmitt

    Abstract: Clay’s work regarding how learners develop independent, strategic control over the process of constructing meaning from written texts indicates that all learners need a flexible repertoire of strategies as a network for: (a) problem solving or working on text on the run, (b) self-monitoring of the message for clarity and coherence, and (c) self-correcting or revising when problems occur (Clay, 1991, 2001). Those who struggle with learning in the middle grades may require explicit interventions; their teachers can help them learn to use the network of strategies rubric described in this article as a guide for being independently responsible for constructing meaning.

  • Young Adult Literature

    Abstract: Fitting in. This one concern can grip an adolescent and become the focus of everyday life. In this issue, Barbara Moss reviews books that feature well-portrayed authentic main characters who grapple in realistic ways with the challenges of today’s world. They address an array of issues from gender preferences to ethnicity, from immigration issues to gangs, and arel suitable for read-alouds, book clubs, independent reading, and classroom discussion.

  • Student to Student

    Abstract: Student to Student is a column that provides middle school students with the opportunity to have their voices and opinions heard. Students from all over the world submit book reviews for publication.

  • Coda

    Abstract: Taking a page from Dick Allington’s perspective, Wilhelm believes that problems involving us, as teachers, are more responsible for reading deficits than inherent problems with our students. As such, he recommends a “growth mindset,” the willingness to continually transform our teaching based on what our students need. To achieve change and transformation, teachers need exactly what kids need: a clear purpose, collegiality, and assistance over time. To that end, he offers us the What, the Context, and the How of Intervention, guiding us to think more broadly and responsibly about the critical task of teaching reading.

  • News and Notes

    Abstract: Jeff Golub, Chair of the Middle Level Steering Committee, highlights the concept of student engagement, offering three crucial bullet points:  1) Engage students in actually performing with language; 2) Use the students’ own talk as a vehicle for learning; 3) Serve as a designer and director of instruction. Of course, there is always Number Four—Take advantage of great professional resources by joining NCTE’s Connected Community and visiting

* 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