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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 24, No. 2, December 2016

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Who Are Middle Level Kids?

  • Calls for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Office Hours: Learning That Matters [FREE ACCESS]

    Sara Kajder and Shelbie Witte

  • LEADING THE CALL: How to Thrive in the Middle [FREE ACCESS]

    Nancie Atwell

    Abstract: Award-winning teacher-educator Nancie Atwell discusses classroom strategies that help students in this transitional age group become more engaged in their reading and writing. The most important factor: allowing them agency in choosing their topics.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Curriculum Reform, student choice

  • LEADING THE CALL: Creating Passionate Readers [FREE ACCESS]

    Pernille Ripp

    Abstract: Once we recognize the very powerful role teachers play in shaping a child’s identity, we can also recognize the immense power we have to help a child become, or remain, a reader. What we do right now may have ramifications far into their future. What we do today, the foundation we lay, may support not just their further academic pursuits, but even shape the children they may have someday and whether the next generation will be readers.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Reading Instruction, Curriculum Reform, reading curriculum

  • YA VOICES: We’re All Apes, After All: An Author’s-Eye View of the Middle School Classroom

    Eliot Schrefer

    Abstract: The two-time National Book Award finalist discusses the lessons he's learned over many classroom visits.

    Keywords: YA Literature

  • College and Career Readiness in Middle School: From George Costanza to Oprah Winfrey [FREE ACCESS]

    Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, and Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson

    Abstract: Trends toward joyless, anxiety-ridden learning environments are often attributed to the advent of the Common Core State Standards, which are commonly interpreted in ways that place great emphasis on presumably quantifiable aspects of instruction. Education is rife, however, with examples of children whose interests and talents—which later led to world-changing careers—were not supported by traditional classroom instruction. We find that middle school, when students’ quests for identity are on overdrive, is an optimal time to help students deeply explore the rich and diverse possibilities for futures that connect to the things that bring them joy. But, how might educators engage in this added layer of college and career thinking when supporting reading competency in middle school requires such tremendous resources?

    Keywords: College- and Career-Readiness, student choice, reading curriculum

  • COLLABORATIVE VOICES: A Mindset for Learning from Others

    Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass

    Abstract: The authors discuss ways to create a culture of collaboration in daily, individual interactions in schools, and what it is that has given us license to think together and put aside our own biases and experiences that may get in the way of true understanding.

    Keywords: Teacher Collaboration

  • “Smarter Than We Give Them Credit For”: Assumptions and Disruptions in a Summer Reading Program [FREE ACCESS]

    Susan Groenke and Rachelle S. Savitz

    Abstract: Research supports the claim that teachers' assumptions about middle level readers can influence classroom practice, including how students are positioned for success—or marginalized—in the ELA classroom. Assumptions are part of teachers' larger belief systems, which can act as "mental parameters within which teachers conceptualize the teaching and learning process " (Donaghue, 2003). Researchers call on literacy teacher- educators to create spaces where such parameters are "disrupted," and teachers' assumptions about young readers become visible, leading to transformed understandings and actions. This article reports on such a space that was created in a summer reading program where secondary literacy  teachers' assumptions about middle level readers were disrupted when they worked with middle level "book buddies" around the youths' text choices

    Keywords: Reading Instruction, student choice, reading curriculum

  • STUDENT VOICES: “There’s Never Two of Anything”

    Linda Rief

    Abstract: In our rush for coverage and disciplinary focus, we have forgotten the students and forgotten the pleasure we take from a beautifully written piece of literature. Real learning is messy, takes time, and does not happen in solitary lessons defined by some number on a standards checklist. This issue's column discusses ways for students to engage with a piece of literature by seeing it through a lens that reflects their own lives.

    Keywords: Reading Instruction, student choice

  • Fostering Authentic Science Writing through Shared Inquiry

    Thomas McCann, Rebecca D’Angelo, Mary Greska, and Nancy Galas

    Abstract: Two fifth-grade teachers, a school librarian, and a university professor report about the surprising emotional, social, and intellectual maturity that middle level learners displayed when they joined together in grappling with difficult science-related topics. Through a shared inquiry and dialogic process, the collaborating teachers tapped into the students' desire to interact with peers while focusing on a task they deemed important. In following learners through a shared inquiry process, the collaborators learned much about how students can write meaningfully about a complex science problem, and by extension, about many problems that confront the contemporary world.

    Keywords: Student-led Learning, Interdisciplinary Literacy

  • Troubling a “Cultured Hell”: Empowering Adolescent Voices through Youth Participatory Action Research

    Jamie Jordan Hogan

    Abstract: The stuff our students want to talk about more and explore most is the heavy stuff. These adolescent youth long not only to talk about the heavy stuff, they want to research the issues that matter most to them, and they want to write about the socially constructed and politically loaded labels that they are forced to inhabit. They seek to understand—an understanding that is driven by a desire to actuate change. The burning question for us as educators: What are we so afraid of in letting them explore these topics?

    Keywords: inquiry-based instruction, Student-led Learning, inquiry-based learning

  • NEW VOICES: Seeing Students, Not Discipline: Never Strip Them of Their Dignity

    Christopher Lehman

    Abstract: In this issue, we interview Chad Everett, an educator who has firsthand experience with student discipline both inside and outside of the classroom. He reflects on the importance of working to see the whole child, even when—and perhaps especially when—they exhibit challenging behavior.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Classroom Management

  • Designing Curriculum That Matters: Awakening Middle School Minds

    Steven Wolk

    Abstract: Middle school students are awakening to a more powerful and empathetic consciousness to the world around them. They have a new interest in important, complex, and sophisticated issues and topics. Teachers can tap into this young adolescent energy by designing curriculum around topics that truly matter to the students and to people across the planet. One way teachers can shape this curriculum is by using middle grade and young adult literature as "anchor texts" for project-based inquiry.

    Keywords: Curriculum Development, inquiry-based instruction

  • Space for All: Middle Level Students in Blended Learning Environments

    Mark Stevens

    Abstract: Blended learning is a type of instruction delivered using Internet resources along with teacher small and whole group instruction in a school. It has been called a disruptive influence on the educational process in general. The author finds this to be true as reflected in three examples of interaction in that environment with students. In these examples, the author learned to make space that suited students' needs, both on and offline. By transgressing spaces, it was possible to achieve a variety of goals, including the development of writing ability, honing of analytical skills, and participation in activities that promote the mastery of social studies content.

    Keywords: blended learning, cross curricular studies

  • Thinking While Reading: The Beautiful Mess of Helping Adolescents Discover and Celebrate How Their Minds Work

    Maggie Beattie Roberts and Kristin Robbins Warren

    Abstract: Adolescents are in the midst of deep analytical thinking. Our middle level kids are doing the beautifully messy work of understanding themselves, creating ideas about how the world works, and figuring out how to fit into it all. It's surprising, then, when we ask them to do similar thinking as readers of texts, it falls flat or doesn't translate. The same thinking skills vibrant in their social-emotional lives can, at times, lay dormant when asked to analyze, interpret, or synthesize ideas from a text. We want the work of literacy to be a journey of self-discovery—the discovery of oneself as a thinker and reader.

    Keywords: Reading Instruction, young adolescents

  • NOTES FROM THE MIDDLE LEVEL SECTION: Celebrating the Gangles: Convergence and the Middle Level [FREE ACCESS]

    Jason Griffith

    Abstract: It’s no wonder that many teachers take one look at a middle school classroom and head the other way, turning back only to say something like, “It takes a special person to teach middle school.” Indeed, a successful middle school teacher is one who celebrates the gangles. One who sees not chaos, but rather a patchwork quilt of potential. One who approaches instruction and relationships with what Dr. Jim Blasingame calls an “adjustable wrench.”

    Keywords: middle level learners, Middle Level Section

* 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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