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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 23, No. 3, March 2016

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Research and Investigation

  • Calls for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Editors’ Message: Teachers and Students as Researchers and Investigators [FREE ACCESS]

    Diane Lapp, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey

  • Project-Based Learning: Investigating Resilience as the Connection between History, Community, and Self

    Cynthia Dawn Martelli and Patricia Watson

    Abstract: The paper shares findings of an examination of Project-Based Learning (PBL) in one eighth-grade classroom. This qualitative study focused on how PBL can meet the needs of 21st-century learners given the competing constraints of state standards and mandated curriculums, contrasted with the needs of disengaged and struggling students. Research questions were the following: In what ways does PBL provide a framework for teaching the skills of a 21st-century standards-based curriculum? What are the perceived benefits and barriers associated with PBL by teachers and students? Teachers and students agree that PBL is student centered and values learning, while preparing students for both standards-based assessments and for life in the real world.

    Keywords: 21st-century skills, inquiry learning, PBL, Project-based Learning

  • Failure and Persistent Inquiry: How Teaching a Digital Curriculum Serves as a Model for Lifelong Learning [FREE ACCESS]

    Jeana M. Hrepich

    Abstract: A digital curriculum offers teachers and students ample opportunities to start over, solve problems, and persist in inquiry. The article takes up a sixth-grade research paper assignment's use of Google Forms and Google Sites as a starting point for how a teacher's relationship with technological failure is a model for lifelong learning.

    Keywords: digital curriculum, Google Forms, Google Sites, New Literacies, research paper, research projects

  • Designing Inquiries That Matter: Targeting Significance, Diversity, and Fit

    James Damico, Michelle Honeyford, and Alexandra Panos

    Abstract: Quality teaching effectively expands the spaces we have to work together as educators, within and across subject areas, to collaboratively design meaningful inquiries with topics, texts, and tools that matter to students and make a difference in society. Supporting inquiry in our classrooms means targeting topics of significance to students' lives, diversity in the perspectives, genres, and complexities of the texts we explore, and fit in the design and use of tools that are responsive to students' cultural, linguistic, and community resources and interests. Designing inquiry for significance, diversity, and fit means purposefully engaging students in literacy that matters.

  • Fostering Authentic Inquiry and Investigation through Middle Grade Mystery and Suspense Novels

    Yolanda Hood and Vicky Zygouris-Coe

    Abstract: College- and career-ready students are critical readers and thinkers. New educational standards call for providing students with opportunities to critically read texts, answer and formulate meaningful questions, and conduct research that will result in deeper learning. Teachers can use quality young adult literature to develop students' reading, research, and inquiry skills. The authors of this article share their analysis of sample middle grade mystery and suspense novels and provide specific suggestions for fostering students' authentic inquiry and investigation skills in the English language arts classroom.

    Keywords: Inquiry, investigation, Research, Young Adult Literature

  • Fostering Habits of Mind: A Framework for Reading Historical Nonfiction Illustrated by the Case of Hilter Youth

    Kaa Vonia Hinton, Younghee Suh, Maria O’Hearn, and Lourdes Colón-Brown

    Abstract: A disciplinary literacy approach encourages students to engage with nonfiction in a way that allows them to consider discipline-specific tasks associated with understanding the past and exploring the world around them. In this article, we offer a three-part framework ELA and social studies teachers can use when fostering students' responses to historical nonfiction and encouraging investigations of the past. This article introduces each part of the framework, using Hitler Youth (2005) by Susan Bartoletti. We discuss Hitler Youth in two ways. We first illustrate how Bartoletti used the three habits of mind in her writing and then list ways in which middle school ELA and social studies teachers model these habits of mind for students.

    Keywords: Collaboration, Disciplinary Literacy, historical nonfiction, interdisciplinary literac, Young Adult Literature

  • Using a “Random Autobiography” to Build Community

    Stephanie M. G. Herb

    Abstract: This article demonstrates using a short poetry lesson to teach literacy skills while building a community of writers. It shows how to turn a quick get-to-know-you activity into a literacy lesson that takes students through the entire writing process. I articulate how I guided students through the lesson by providing explanations of each step and including student conversations that occurred throughout. Other teachers could easily reproduce this lesson. It includes analyzing mentor texts (model poems), listing topic-specific ideas as a prewriting strategy, drafting the poem, a revision lesson, and sharing throughout to build community.

    Keywords: building community, Language Arts, Middle School, Poetry, Writing, Writing Process

  • Classroom Talk as (In)Formative Assessment [FREE ACCESS]

    Evelyn Ford-Connors, Dana A. Roberston, and Jeanne R. Paratore

    Abstract: Of the varied assessment tools available to teachers in the middle school classroom, one that is frequently overlooked in this era of new assessments and curriculum is classroom talk. The dialogic exchanges that occur during routine classroom instruction provide teachers with valuable insight into what students know and can do and can guide teachers’ instructional decisions. This article explores the use of talk as an assessment tool and offers examples of how talk reveals important information about students’ developing understandings and progress toward new learning. 

    Keywords: classroom talk, Formative Assessment, Instruction, teacher talk

  • CODA: Working Toward Conscious Competence: The Power of Inquiry for Teachers and Learners

    Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

    Abstract: In his final CODA, the author discusses “conscious competence” and the ways inquiry-based methods contribute to understanding of ideas larger than just what is covered in class.

    Keywords: inquiry-based learning

* 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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