ReadWriteThink created by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Literacy Association (ILA), provides free instructional practices and digital resources that support effective reading and language arts instruction for learners. each issue of Voice from the Middle includes connections to ReadWriteThink lesson plans and other resources.
- Lisa Storm Fink
Culturally Responsive Teaching within Middle Grades
Critical Literacy and Our Students’ Lives
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus explains to Scout that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (36). Make this advice more literal by inviting students to imagine spending a day in someone else’s shoes in this writing activity. Students examine a variety of shoes and envision what the owner would look like, such as their appearance, actions, etc. They then write a narrative, telling the story of a day in the shoe owner’s life. While this lesson plan uses the quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird as a springboard and ties nicely to discussions of the novel, it can be completed even if students are not currently reading the book
An Undeniable Force: Supporting Urban Middle School Students as Scholars and Citizens through Debate
In this lesson, students analyze their own schooling experiences by imagining what
their education would be like if service-learning was a requirement for graduation. They engage in a preliminary classroom debate—either agreeing with the proposed change in curriculum, opposing it, or taking a middle-ground stance—before they have all of the facts. From here, students research service-learning and work in groups to prepare informed debates. At the end of this lesson, students reflect on the implications of making uninformed vs. informed arguments as well as what it takes to build a strong, successful argument.
Social Action and Social Justice: A Path to Critical Consciousness for Engagement
In this lesson plan, students are introduced to concepts of social justice such as diversity, tolerance, equity, and equality through a literary text, class discussions, and guided research. Students plan a service-learning project, then work in small groups to produce a multimedia presentation designed to foster community support for the project. Students also create informational fliers about the project. The lesson concludes—and the service learning project begins—with a showing of the productions for parents and other community members.
Hacking Heteronormativity and Remixing Rhymes: Enacting a [Q]ulturally Sustaining Pedagogy in Middle Grades English Language Arts
The social landscape has changed dramatically for gay and lesbian people over the past twenty years. Similar changes have occurred in the ways that gays and lesbians are represented in young adult literature. Tune in to this podcast episode to hear about the many different ways in which contemporary authors are including gay, lesbian, and transgender characters in their novels for teens, and listen for recommendations of new as well as classic gay, lesbian, and transgender titles. Parrotfish is one of the titles included.
Courageous Literacy: Linguistically Responsive Teaching with English Language Learners
In this unit, students write and perform bilingual poetry, exploring the theme of “crossing boundaries.” Boundaries can be those that divide countries, race, class, cultures, or even our own mental boundaries and prejudices. In order to scaffold the integration of different languages, three mini-workshops with individual models are provided. The unit culminates in a poetry slam at school or in the community. This unit is suited to a foreign language,
bilingual, or ESL classroom but can be adapted for use in any linguistically diverse classroom. (Note: Examples are in Spanish but could be adapted.)
Partnering with Families and Communities: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy at Its Best
This project motivates students to learn about organic gardening by developing their own research questions, conducting research, and gardening at their school. They then create signs about their plants and present their research to the class so that other students can learn about each plant.
Connecting Classrooms and Communities with Language and Technology: A Multimodal Code-Meshing Project
As language users, we constantly move between speech communities and adjust our language accordingly. As students advance in their academic careers, they engage in more complex tasks in school, both spoken and written. Consequently, their ability to style shift becomes more important, as they are often judged on the appropriateness of their language choices. This lesson plan asks students to compare formal and informal language styles and articulate the specific features common to each style. Students examine their own language use to note how it varies across contexts. By becoming aware of the changes in their own language use, students can gain greater control over the language styles they adopt in different contexts.