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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 20, No. 4, May 2013

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Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Teaching the Language of School and Academics

  • Call for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Editors' Message: It’s Not Impossible to Acquire and Expand Classroom Language: Instruction Matters [FREE ACCESS]

    Diane Lapp, Doug Fisher, and Nancy Frey

    Abstract: Being prepared for success in high school, college, and most careers involves the ability to read, talk about, and write information that is conveyed through inextricably entwined academic and content language. Acquiring proficiency with academic language is a challenge for all middle school students, and doubly so for those who do not speak English as their home language. The authors in this issue of Voices share examples illustrating that when teachers provide familiar, quality instruction that promotes meaning-centered interactions among students, the children learn how to use an academic register to speak, read, write, explain, and persuade across the disciplines.

  • Three Mentor Texts That Support Code-Switching Pedagogies

    Dara Hill

    Abstract: This article informs us about the need for facilitating code-switching pedagogies that call for teacher-led scaffolding of students' home languages to negotiate informal and formal contexts for writing and speaking. Varied strategies are guided by three mentor texts the author has conceptualized or enacted in practice and research among middle level students. The three mentor texts guiding recommendations include Woodson's (2009) Peace, Locomotion, Fleischman's (1997) Seedfolks, and Curtis's (1997) The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963.

  • How Can Teachers Increase Classroom Use of Academic Vocabulary? [FREE ACCESS]

    Lisa Larson, Temoca Dixon, and Dianna Townsend

    Abstract: The purpose for this action research study was to answer the question: How can we enhance students' active engagement with academic vocabulary in social studies classes? In this article, the authors share the strategies they developed through their research that proved most effective in engaging middle school students with active academic vocabulary use in social studies. They consider both general academic words and content-specific words, and highlight the power of word walls, morphology practice, matching activities, word sorts, and vocabulary journals in helping students access the abstract and dense social studies texts they encounter in such classrooms.

  • Building on the Linguistic and Cultural Strengths of EL Students

    Kay Cowan and Sarah Sandefur

    Abstract: This article discusses an exemplary EL program grounded in research-based literacy strategies. World War II and the Holocaust served as the backdrop for a program that stressed vocabulary and concept development, and then connected that understanding to reading and writing. The "five streams" used to address literacy competencies included reading aloud fictional novels, guided reading of short informational texts, supported independent reading of picture storybooks, guided viewing of films, and guided writing. The roles of engagement, the development of self-efficacy, and the affirmation of students were contributing factors to the program.

  • Scaffolding Content and Language Demands for “Reclassified” Students

    Eliane Rubinstein-Ávila

    Abstract: Students who are reclassified from English Language Learners (ELLs) to Fluent English Proficient (FEPs) do not necessarily developed the complex linguistic competencies to succeed across content areas. Through vivid snapshots of two middle school lessons (Science and Reading), the author points out that content area teachers can (and should) employ instructional strategies to continue scaffolding—from a Vygotskian sense—content and language demands to support the academic learning of reclassified students. The instructional strategies employed by the two teachers include: “wait-time,” think-pair-share, context setting, use of visuals/objects (e.g., realia), modeling on overhead projector, and the use of small groups (and structured talk). These strategies help render the content comprehensible to reclassified students as well as more accessible to all students.

  • Not Just Good Science Teaching: Supporting Academic Language Development

    Cecilia Silva, Molly Weinburgh, and Kathy Horak Smith

    Abstract: In this article, the authors explore ways in which they have worked together in understanding the complexities of academic language within the science classroom and discuss strategies they have used to teach academic language to young adolescent English Language Learners (ELLs) within inquiry-based science lessons.  They discuss strategies they use to explicitly teach linguistic components of academic language and provide examples of ways they support ELLs in understanding how mathematical expression and visual representation support meaning making with the hybrid language of academic science.

    Keywords: Academic Language, English Language Learners, Hybrid Language, Instructional Strategies, Science

  • Young Adult Literature: Making the Common Core Text Exemplars Accessible to Middle Graders [FREE ACCESS]

    Barbara Moss

    Abstract: This column provides an overview of the Common Core text exemplars and gives examples of ways teachers can group text exemplars and other trade books in ways that will support middle graders’ understanding of complex texts. Building background by supplementing text exemplars with other titles is particularly emphasized. Suggestions for grouping exemplars and other books on topics like the Great Depression, slavery, art, and architecture are provided.  Classic books by authors like Virginia Hamilton, Walt Whitman, and Frederick Douglass are featured, as are more contemporary titles by authors like Elizabeth Partridge, David Macaulay, and Russell Freedman.

  • Student to Student: Using Picturebooks to Promote Academic Literacy

    Wendy Ranck-Buhr

    Abstract: The development of academic literacy requires students to think critically about multiple text types. Picturebooks can be rich and varied resources on which to base well-designed instruction that will facilitate thinking, discussions, connections, and problem solving in multiple content areas. From the Holocaust to ecology to grammar, picturebooks use informative text and outstanding (and meaningful) artwork to grow knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for myriad topics and genres. Don’t be afraid to try it!

  • CODA: The Question of Teaching Vocabulary: Which Words? In What Ways?

    Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

    Abstract: Recognizing the importance of vocabulary for comprehension, Wilhelm asks two key questions: which words do I teach and how should I teach them? Through years of trial and error, Wilhelm has adopted these principles to answer which words: teach important words students will see and use again; words necessary to conceptual understanding; words that serve as gateways to other words and concepts. As for how to teach them, Wilhelm emphasizes teaching in context to increase retention of the word and to support engagement with the subject matter. He elaborates with specifics on instruction and student activities that have proven valuable. He ends with a reminder that teaching and learning vocabulary is essential to academic success for all students, including ELLs, and to the struggle for equality and civil rights.

  • Index for Volume 20 [FREE ACCESS]

* 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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