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Voices from the Middle, Volume 25, Number 3, March 2018

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Urban Middle Level Education

  • Calls for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • OFFICE HOURS The Importance of Urban Literacies [FREE ACCESS]

    Guest editors: Jamal Cooks and Tonya Perry

  • LEADING THE CALL What’s Radical about Youth Writing?: Seeing and Honoring Youth Writers and Their Literacies [FREE ACCESS]

    Marcelle M. Haddix

    Abstract: The author discusses her powerful writing experience with her urban out-of-school writing project, Writing Our Lives. Students find a safe space to express their thoughts and share with peers, even voluntarily, on Saturdays! She discovered that urban students do want to write, but it is up to the teacher and community to listen to the students as they guide us through the process to engage their voices and create radical, aware citizens.

    Keywords: Writing Instruction, after-school writing, middle school/jr high literacy, urban literacies

  • Using Texts to Nurture Reading, Writing, and Intellectual Development: A Conversation with Alfred Tatum

    Tonya Perry

    Abstract: Guest editor Perry talks to Alfred W. Tatum, scholar and dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Tatum’s work in the field spans K–12 and currently focuses on developing reading and writing skills with urban youth, especially boys.

    Keywords: Writing, Reading, urban literacies, Black boys, Boys College

  • “Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people”: Literacies Within and Without

    Ayanna F. Brown

    Abstract: This article presents urban literacies as set of instructional practices deeply connected to a set of beliefs about teaching and learning and building community within a seventh-grade ELA classroom. The author identifies Black student identity, including language and culture, as a critical component for building successful learning communities and correlates the study of literacies and Black education as cornerstones for pedagogy that resists the deficiency paradigms that dominate discourses for Black student achievement. The article builds in students' voices twenty years later, where they reflect on their experiences in the ELA classroom.

    Keywords: culturally responsive teaching/CRT, middle school/jr high literacy, urban literacies, Black education, ELA classroom

  • Breaking Stereotypes and Boundaries: Latina Adolescent Girls and Their Parents Writing Their Worlds [FREE ACCESS]

    Tracey T. Flores

    Abstract: The author shares her learnings working alongside Latina adolescent girls and their parents in Somos Escritores/We Are Writers, a six-week writing workshop that invites families to write and share stories from their lived experiences. She shares what led her work with families, providing an overview of the practices of the space. Next, she shares what she learned from families about why they write. Finally, she discusses the importance and pedagogical possibilities of creating space in literacy classrooms and family involvement spaces that center the voices, stories, and ways of knowing of families.

    Keywords: Family Literacy, Cultural Studies, family writing, Latina adolescent girls

  • Cultivating Urban Literacies on Chicago’s South Side through a Pedagogy of Spatial Justice

    Andrea Vaughan, Rebecca Woodard, Nathan C. Phillips, and Kara Taylor

    Abstract: The authors examine a middle school teacher's food justice unit on Chicago's South Side through a lens of a pedagogy of spatial justice that highlights attention to how spaces, places, and the people in them are constituted over time. Spatial justice is particularly important in urban contexts where marginalized community members are perpetually "fighting for the right to the city" (Soja, 2010, p. 2). The article considers the ways students' urban literacies were cultivated as they (1) drew from their local knowledge (of self, culture, and place), (2) critically situated their local knowledge in broader sociopolitical contexts, and (3) crafted counter narratives. 

    Keywords: Writing, urban literacy, food justice, middle school/jr. high literacy, spatial justice

  • Classics in the Inner City: The Teacher Making It Work

    Jim Johnston

    Abstract: This article looks at the necessity of finding connections to the lives of inner city students in order to deepen the understanding of the classics in addition to increasing the motivation of students to read and synthesize their experiences with those in the text to generate new meanings and understanding. In this case, the book is The Diary of Anne Frank.

    Keywords: Reading, Classroom Practice, Cultural Studies, middle school/jr high literacy, literature studies

  • (CHAT)ting at Home: A Family’s Activity Theory System [FREE ACCESS]

    Tisha Lewis Ellison and S. R. Toliver

    Abstract: This article examines how two African American urban middle school learners and their father engaged in using a household DIY project and the effect it had on their learning. Cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) was used to focus on the ways activity systems played in human interaction. Findings include how their learning was based on the roles they played, how agency and apprenticeship were constructed, and how familial experiences were supported by one another. The article concludes with implications for teachers of urban middle school learners that contribute to students' learning in informal settings.

    Keywords: Student-led Learning, activity theory, Student Agency, middle school/jr high literacy, Black boys, African American literacy, apprenticeship, urban middle school learners

  • Popular Culture as a Scaffold for Critical Analysis

    Kathryn Scott Nelson

    Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the ways in which seventh graders in a diverse setting demonstrated critical literacy perspectives while analyzing pop culture media and how students later applied this critical analysis to more challenging texts. Student discussions revealed that they built upon the knowledge gained in the stereotyping unit and deepened their critical analyses. The use of pop culture media was a powerful scaffold for learning critical analysis, and middle level students deepened their critical literacy practices as they transferred their critical analysess to more challenging texts.

    Keywords: Critical Literacy, Popular Culture, culturally responsive instruction, middle school/jr high literacy


    Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, Cindy Minnich, and Katherine Sokolowski

    Abstract: In this issue’s column, members of The Nerdy Book Club discuss ways to ensure students have access to books, including examining school library policies regarding fines, summer reading, classroom libraries, and digital resources.

    Keywords: Reading, middle school/jr high literacy, book access, book desert, school libraries

  • NEW VOICES Shifting from “Saviors” to Effective Teachers in Urban Middle Level Classrooms [FREE ACCESS]

    Christopher Lehman

    Abstract: In this column, Chris Lehman shares discussions with early-career teachers as they begin their practices. This month, two teachers discuss what they’ve learned from teaching in urban classrooms.

    Keywords: Professional Learning, early-career teachers, Urban Teaching

  • STUDENT VOICES Stone Walls and City Lights: It’s All in the Same Direction

    Linda Rief and Jennifer Ochoa

    Abstract: In this column, renowned teacher and literacy expert Linda Rief shares her middle school students’ perspectives. This month, Linda compares her New Hampshire students’ daily routines and concerns with her colleague Jennifer Ochoa’s New York City students’.

    Keywords: Student-led Learning, middle school/jr. high literacy

  • EVERYDAY ADVOCATES Working in Ways That Are Strategic and Savvy

    Cathy Fleischer

    Abstract: In the latest of her series of columns about ways teachers can be advocates, Cathy Fleischer shares ways to be a Savvy Advocate.

    Keywords: Advocacy, Teacher Leadership

  • RESEARCH VOICES Making Race Visible: Literacy Research for Cultural Understanding

    Lisa Scherff

    Abstract: This column helps show how to apply current research to today’s classroom. In this issue, Lisa Scherff looks at two chapters in the book Making Race Visible: Literacy Research for Cultural Understanding, edited by Stuart Greene and Dawn Abt-Perkins (2003, Teachers College Press), that speak specifically to how our identities and practices may perpetuate inequity and injustice.

    Keywords: Professional Development, Classroom Practice, Cultural Studies, identity studies

  • NOTES FROM THE MIDDLE LEVEL SECTION “Knowledge, Passion, and Compassion”: Urban Middle School English Language Arts Teachers—What’s Your Story?

    James Blasingame

    Abstract: In this issue's message from the Middle Level Section Steering Committee, James Blasingame shares results from a survey of highly regarded middle school ELA teachers in urban schools in the southwestern United States. Respondents were encouraged to use a narrative approach to discuss why they became teachers in the first place and what keeps them continuing in the field.

* 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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