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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 23, No. 2, December 2015

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Writing Matters

  • Calls for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Editors’ Message: Teaching Students to Read Like Writers Promotes Writing Growth [FREE ACCESS]

    Diane Lapp, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey

  • More Than Skin Deep: Professional Development That Transforms Teachers

    Deborah Dean, Melissa Heaton, Sarah Orme, Gary Woodward

    Abstract: The best professional development for many writing teachers is provided by sites of the National Writing Project. In this article, four teachers of various levels of instruction share what makes the summer institute experience so valuable to them in their teaching lives and in the lives of their student writers. One common thread is the way the projects help teachers see themselves as writers who can identify with their student writers. 

    Keywords: Professional Development, Writing Instruction, national writing project, teachers as writers

  • Designing Writing Instruction That Matters

    Hannah Dostal and Rachael Gabriel

    Abstract: Many teachers admit a lack of confidence in their own writing or knowledge about writing. Even with all the available tools and programs for teaching writing, it can be difficult to know where to begin. In this article we present two tools teachers have been using to ensure their writing instruction is balanced, engaging, and authentic.

    Keywords: Writing, Language Arts, Common Core State Standards, explicit instruction, strategy instruction

  • Utilizing the Writing Process to Develop Meaningful Arguments

    Vicky Giouroukakis and Maureen Connolly

    Abstract: This article discusses how to use the writing process in middle school to overcome the challenges of argument writing instruction. The authors outline elements of strong argument writing and provide varied instructional approaches to prewriting, drafting, revising/editing, and publishing. Models for scaffolding instruction are included.

    Keywords: Writing Process, argument writing

  • Anthem or Nah? Culturally Relevant Writing Instruction and Community [FREE ACCESS]

    Latrise P. Johnson and Elizabeth Eubanks

    Abstract: This article examines the utilization, implementation, and impact of an original writing lesson—the anthem essay.  The anthem essay lesson was designed to prepare preservice teachers to teach a structured writing lesson for middle level writers.  This culturally relevant lesson prompted emerging writers to focus on and interrogate social issues at play in their personal lives and within their communities. Through dialogue, discussion, and collaboration, students were prepared to write community—that is, when writing is not only for the individual, but linked to how we belong with each other in the world. In other words, students write within and for community. The anthem essay invited and centered student ideas while interrupting traditional ways of teaching essay writing for young adolescent writers. 

    Keywords: Teaching Writing, Discussion, Collaboration, Writing community

  • Kindling the Pedagogic Imagination: Preservice Teachers Writing with Social Media

    Ryan M. Rish and Kristine E. Pytash

    Abstract: In this essay, two teacher educators reflect on the experience of four preservice English/language arts teachers who participated in a social media project across seven university campuses. For the #walkmyworld project, the preservice teachers shared pictures and videos, annotated and wrote poetry, and read and responded to each other. The project helped the preservice teachers consider how they could support student writing in relationship to their identities, responsive audiences, and multimodal composition. As what counts as writing and who counts as a writer seems to be narrowing in classrooms, the project served to kindle the pedagogic imagination of the participants. 

    Keywords: Writing Instruction, multimodality, Social Media, identity, pedagogic imagination, responsive audiences

  • Their Own Voices: Empowering Students with Choice in Writing Tasks

    Jaime Norris

    Abstract: Choice in writing assignments empowers students to take ownership of their work. Now that the new Common Core Standards require more writing to be done in classes, student engagement is more important than ever. If students are to spend extended amounts of time revising and editing a single piece of writing, it is critical that they care about the topic or assignment. The standards also call for specific types of writing assignments to be completed, and there are many ways to incorporate choice in these assignments. Choice alone will not help students become better writers, so teachers must guide students in careful study of mentor texts and models of exemplary writing.

  • Beyond Digital Stories: Crafting Digital Compositions for Opinion Writing [FREE ACCESS]

    Stephen Adam Crawley

    Abstract: Digital storytelling helps twenty-first-century learners use current technologies to construct meaning, connect in-school to out-of-school experiences, and expand audiences. Often, these digital stories reflect narratives of students’ lives, but ample opportunities also exist for students to use this medium across genres and for social action. The author describes how his fifth-grade students created multimodal, digital compositions for opinion writing in which they incorporated written text, images, music, and voice narration, addressed relevant topics in their lives, and inspired change in their communities. Common Core Standards and current research which support multimodal compositions are shared throughout the article.

    Keywords: Technology, Writing, Digital Storytelling, Common Core State Standards, multimodality, opinion/argument writing

  • Using Writers’ Notebooks to Support Inquiry and Digital Composing

    Kelly Chandler-Olcott

    Abstract: This article describes how writers’ notebooks can support student inquiry and the construction of informative digital texts. A heterogeneous group of students enrolled in a summer writing institute used their notebooks for various purposes, including to notice features of exemplar texts, take notes, brainstorm ideas, and evaluate their progress in constructing new texts and new understandings. Sample entries from students with varying profiles demonstrate that such notebooks are an "elastic" tool—one that stretches to accommodate varying student needs in inclusive literacy classrooms.

    Keywords: Inquiry, digital stories, inclusive schooling, writers’ notebooks

  • Postmodern Picture Books: “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done in English Class”

    Molly Harville and Misha Franks

    Abstract: Inquiry into postmodern picture books allows students to develop as writers and problem-solvers. This article describes how a classroom teacher and her mentor teach a postmodern picture book unit with sixth graders. Students examine mentor texts, analyze text structure, write, revise, edit, and perform various postmodern pieces as they learn the characteristics of the genre and the skills of a writer.

    Keywords: Inquiry, middle school students, postmodern picture books

  • Digital Transmediation and Revision [FREE ACCESS]

    Katherine Batchelor

    Abstract: This article showcases how transmediation via digital tools enhanced students' writing and revision during a three-week flash science-fiction unit of study. It begins with a brief rationale for pairing transmediation with revision. Then, I share two students' stories of how they revised while transmediating their thinking of their initial flash sci-fi drafts. I end by showcasing students' thoughts on how transmediating encouraged deeper revision and connected transmediation to play as inquiry. Transmediation paired with revision increases student motivation, engagement, and learning; increases taking risks with thinking and writing; encourages deeper revision with macrostructural changes in writing; increases abductive thinking and creativity; and allows students to work within out-of-school literacies. 

    Keywords: Technology, Writing, Multiple Literacies, Revision, Digital Literacy, transmediation

  • My Absolutely Crummy First Draft: The Trials and Triumphs of Motivating the Adolescent Writer [FREE ACCESS]

    Shirley Cowles

    Abstract: This article serves to highlight the importance of educating adolescent writers around the origins of writing, the importance of carefully identifying word choice, the revision process, and developing one's voice as a writer. Working toward having students understand that writing is hard work is half the battle. But building upon this knowledge foundation by incorporating the creative writing process, students become not only strong writers, but writers who enjoy and look forward to crafting text, regardless of the genre. They begin to understand that writing matters. A number of creative writing activities and strategies are included throughout along with examples of student work.

    Keywords: Creative Writing, adolescent writers, development of “voice” in writing, Gifted writers, revision process

  • “You Can’t Just Write an Essay in an Hour”: Supporting Middle Schoolers’ Peer Feedback and Revision Process through Online Writing Groups

    Laura Beth Kelly

    Abstract: This paper explores a middle school American history teacher's effort to support revision through peer feedback in his classroom. The teacher wanted to develop disciplinary writing skills among his students and teach them how to offer each other quality and meaningful feedback. He established online writing groups to support in-class instruction. Students uploaded essays to Google Classroom and shared them with their writing group. They used the comments and reply features to dialog about their work. The study found that teaching students to offer "clarifying" and "suggesting" feedback improved the quality of their comments to peers, using online writing groups motivated most students to revise, and students began to value peer feedback and the revision process overall.

    Keywords: Revision, Feedback, blended learning, disciplinary writing, online collaboration, peer conferencing

  • Understanding the Purpose and Tools of Revision

    Denise N. Morgan, Leslie Benko, Valerie Long, and Gayle Marek Hauptman

    Abstract: Revising is hard work. Many students do not understand the purpose of and tools for revision. This article examines a revision unit of study that has been implemented with 7th-grade students for the past two years. The goals for the unit are highlighted: develop a mindset for revision and learn practical tools of revision. The lessons that helped students meet these two goals are highlighted, and student voices and experiences are woven throughout the article.

    Keywords: Writing, Revision, unit of study

  • Book Talk: Writing Matters for Characters Who Write [FREE ACCESS]

    Nancy Roser, Detra Price-Dennis, and Erin Greeter

    Abstract: The authors discuss the ways in which reading recent books for youth about characters who write help students understand the process and the craft of writing. 

    Keywords: Writing, adolescent literature

  • CODA: Rules of Notice: How Authors and Texts Communicate What They Expect to Readers

    Jeffery Wilhelm

    Abstract: Highly accomplished readers recognize that authors write with certain assumptions about their audience. Teaching students these rules of notice help them both as readers and as writers. Knowing how to decode writing in this way ensures that students deeply comprehend and respond to text and also gives them tools to use in their own writing.

    Keywords: Writing Instruction, Response to Literature, rules of notice

* 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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