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Voices from the Middle, Vol. 26, No. 3, March 2019

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Asking Real Questions

  • Calls for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Office Hours: Literacy Teaching Requires Inquiry Work [FREE ACCESS]

    Sara Kajder and Shelbie Witte

  • Leading the Call: Engaging Students in Shared Inquiry [FREE ACCESS]

    Richard Beach

    Abstract: Given the importance of engaging students in shared, collaborative inquiry, this description of a 7th/8th grade teacher and her three students describes their use of four literacy practices that enhanced student engagement in shared inquiry: focusing on key questions, use of "exploratory talk," entertaining alternative perspectives, and using multimodal responses. Students benefited from exposure to each other's thinking as well as the teacher's willingness to participate as a co-inquirer/learner.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Discussion, Collaboration, Inquiry, multimodality, engagement, literary response

  • YA Voices: At the Heart of It [FREE ACCESS]

    Deb Caletti

    Abstract: Award-winning author Deb Caletti shares what it means to “write what you know.’’

    Keywords: Middle Level, #MeToo, A Heart in the Body of the World, YA Lit

  • Inspired Inquiry: Three Classroom-Based Approaches to Genius Hour

    Ricki Ginsberg and Pamela K. Coke

    Abstract: The pedagogical approach of Genius Hour offers students opportunities for deeper learning and the freedom to ask real questions connected to their interests and passions. In this article, we share Genius Hour project development and brainstorming strategies specific to middle school language arts teachers. We feature three different approaches that teachers might take to implement Genius Hour: independent student-selected inquiry, small group or whole-class inquiry, and curricular project or book-based inquiry. For each approach, we offer two examples of student projects that emerged from this work in our classrooms

    Keywords: Language Arts, Middle School, Inquiry, Teaching, student-centered learning, classroom structure, Genius Hour

  • Language Field Guides: Co-Vocabulary Curriculum through Inquiry [FREE ACCESS]

    Rebekah O’Dell

    Abstract: What can we develop together that will help us learn words, learn how to learn words, and remember those words later? This guiding question launched one teacher and a group of eighth graders into a semester-long inquiry with the mission of shaping meaningful vocabulary instruction. As they moved through rounds of experiments, the group returned to three central inquiry question: What is not working? What do we need or want more of? What can we try? This article shares the inquiry process as well as the final product: a field guide for language.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Teacher Research, Inquiry, vocabulary instruction

  • Teaching with YA Lit: Questionception: Asking Questions about Using Questions to Teach YA Literature

    Jason Griffith

    Abstract: Three teachers of YA literature answer the question, "What question(s) help students to engage with YA literature in fresh and interesting ways?"

    Keywords: Instruction, Inquiry, questions, YA lit/YA Literature/Young Adult Literature

  • Embracing Uncertainty: When Inquiry Drives the Reading Conference

    Danielle Lillge and Alison Utley Crane

    Abstract: In this article, the authors address how middle level teachers can develop ways of being in conversation with students so that their conferences illuminate the motivating power of reading inquiry. They examine why, even when teachers implement the purposes and procedures for leading conferences in a reading workshop model, student conferences can still fall flat. They discuss a yearlong teacher-research project that analyzed how conference discourse opens or closes opportunities for inquiry during reading conferences and find that attention to conference discourse—talk, written responses, and other interactions with students—reveal opportunities for repositioning students as joint inquirers.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Inquiry, reading conferences, student conference

  • Passion Projects: Creating Space for Adolescents to Ask Real Questions

    Jessica West and Brooke Franklin

    Abstract: This article describes one teacher's process for immersing her students in Passion Projects. These projects have allowed students to take action on issues that they care about and make a tangible impact on their local community and wider world. Using student examples, we show how this project created authentic and relevant learning experiences for adolescents.

    Keywords: Middle Level, inquiry-based learning, authentic learning, Passion Projects

  • Student Voices: Asking Real Questions [FREE ACCESS]

    Linda Rief

    Abstract: In this issue, one student’s inquiry about his own identity is nurtured through class reading and writing.

    Keywords: Middle Level, Inquiry, student choice

  • From Curveballs to Agates: Scaffolding Inquiry with Seventh Graders

    Nicholas Stenske and Mary F. Wright

    Abstract: This narrative inquiry highlights a collaborative research unit between the seventh grade science and English classrooms. Good science and English teachers develop a culture of inquiry within their classrooms. Guided by a cycle of inquiry involving finding the question, framing the problem, collecting critical textual evidence, determining answers and reflection, students participate in a six week research unit. Authentic inquiry is connected to lived experience as students ask genuine questions to seek answers. The research results surprised and delighted the students, the writing community, and me as teacher. From curveballs to agate hunting the chosen topics drove research for real purposes.

    Keywords: Inquiry, critical thinking, Research Skills, asking real questions, essential questions, middle level/grades, scaffolding inquiry, student reflection

  • New Voices: Their Words, Your Voice

    Sarah Brown Wessling

    Abstract: This column presents the voices of new teachers, sharing their insights in their first years of teaching. In this issue, the teachers compare their personal teaching truths with “classic’’ teacher personas.

    Keywords: Middle Level, early career, teacher persona, teaching truths

  • Hero’s Journey: A Yearlong Curriculum

    Karla V. Kingsley, Margo Collier, Rebecca Sánchez, Yen Pham, and Alissa Sanchez

    Abstract: This article describes a curriculum centered on the Hero's Journey to engage eighth grade students in interdisciplinary and multimodal literacy experiences. The Hero's Journey framework launched inquiry related to four strands: self-exploration, high school transition, career development, and global awareness. Students mapped journeys of heroes, including the Holocaust artist-educator Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, and explored potential pathways for their own life journeys. Because of her reliance on aesthetic inquiry as a teacher in concentration camps, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis emerged as a focal point in the curriculum. Students made meaning and envisioned their own potential within the larger context of a historical and contemporary global community.

    Keywords: Literacy, Curriculum, Curriculum Development, authentic assessment, interdisciplinary learning, inquiry-based learning, classroom strategies/ideas, middle school issues

  • Affiliate Voices: Great Things Happening at the State Level

    Lori Goodson

    Abstract: In this issue, we learn about events happening with affiliates in California, New Mexico, Oregon, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

    Keywords: NCTE Affiliates, CATE, CTCTE, NJCTE, NMCTE, OCTE

  • Notes from the Middle Level: Project-Based Learning at the Beginning

    Justin Stygles

    Abstract: Middle Level Section Steering Committee member Justin Stygles reminds us that access to reading is at the heart of all inquiry.

    Keywords: Inquiry, access to reading, MLSSC

* 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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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts