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Voices from the Middle--Moving from Print to Practice, May 2014 (21.4)

This Issue’s Focus: Remixing the Roles of Teacher and Learner

Our editors tell us that remixing in the 21st-century classroom means “remixing the lines between teacher and learner and teaching and learning.” The articles in this issue and the accompanying resources help us to facilitate remixing digital literacies with the expectations of the Common Core State Standards.

Ideas in all of these articles also lend themselves to interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and team-teaching experiences. As you read and explore the resources, continue to be mindful of the ways language arts teachers can reach out across content area boundaries to integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and digital literacies that will enrich and enhance student learning.

Visit the VM Podcasts page to access interviews with authors of this issue's articles.

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Using Centers for Independent Practice and Exploration

"Media at the Core: How Media Literacy Strategies Strengthen Teaching with Common Core" by David Cooper Moore and Theresa Redmond

"Writing Needs a Place to Play: Leaving Room for Rehearsing through Revision Centers" by Lauren Gibbons

"The Promise of Remix: An Open Message to Educators" by Crystal V. Shelby-Caffey, Ronald Caffey, Cameron A. Caffey, and Kolbi A. Caffey

General Discussion Topic

Our colleagues in the early grades use centers as places for exploration and small-group instruction. Lauren Gibbons drew on fond memories of those experiences to create what she calls “revision centers.” Moore and Redmond do not connect their idea directly to the use of centers, but the media literacy concepts they explore could work well in a centers model. Shelby-Caffey and her family explore several ways young adolescents are using text and media in their lives outside of school. Centers may be one method to bring these activities into the classroom in meaningful ways that can help foster creativity and critical thinking. How can middle school teachers adapt the concept of centers for young adolescents as places for exploration, discovery learning, independent practice, or differentiated lessons?

Key Points

  • Interactive learning centers are places where students discussed repetition in different texts, studied the nuances, and rehearsed how they could utilize similar techniques to enhance the meaning of their writing.
  • Students benefit from examining how different authors use the same skill.
  • Students benefit from having multiple opportunities to discuss a writing skill when using bite-size chunks.
  • Giving students time to discuss and rehearse allows them to begin to think like writers, as opposed to students who are writing to hit all the items on a checklist.
  • Rather than replacing books with films or substituting five­-paragraph essays with wikis, we must take a broader view in choosing and using a variety of texts, tools, and media that enhance both traditional and contemporary forms of literacy, fluency, and communication.
  • A careful process of assessing credibility, scaffolding research experiences online in ways that are developmentally appropriate, and finding ways not to shut off the expansive information on the Web from classroom engagement will prepare students for a world with diminishing boundaries between users and information.
  • To be effective in teaching and reaching middle level learners, we must find ways to honor students’ popular culture, fandoms, and interests as topics that are not opposed to but rather directly connected with the curriculum and values we try to impart by teaching exemplars.
  • In many instances, the roles of teacher and learner have been redefined, and educators are beginning to tap into the benign yet heretofore unappreciated activities that middle level students engage in outside of school.

Common Core Connection

Explore the newly redesigned Common Core State Standards webpage at

7th Grade: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

Reading Informational Texts: Key Ideas and Details

Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium's portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).

Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.

Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.

Using These Articles with Your Team

Writing persuasive arguments and improving media literacy are skills that lend themselves to cross-curricular and multidisciplinary units. Teachers could follow Gibbons’s model of revision centers in the language arts classroom using mentor texts provided by the science or social studies teacher to align to their unit of study. In a team-teaching situation, centers could be divided—some for revision and some for analysis of media sources—in a content-focused unit. For example, in science, students could be studying ocean currents and writing persuasive pieces about the need to control the trash we dump into the oceans. In one center, students could examine mentor texts such as Tracking Trash: Flotsam and Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns; in another, they could investigate websites and media sources about the topic.

Why Not Try This?
  • Gibbons references Harry Noden’s Image Grammar as a source for her ideas on repetition and parallel structure. Not familiar with image grammar? Check it out at
  • Revision centers or centers focused on media literacy and analysis don’t have to be confined to the classroom. Try using your learning management system or other Web resource to post and share writing or resources.
  • Moore and Redmond’s Five Key Ideas Connecting Media Literacy with the Common Core State Standards could each be explored in a separate center:
  1. Media Literacy Expands the Concept of “Text”: In a center format, ask students to interact with, evaluate, and model a variety of texts. Use some of the examples from the Shelby-Caffey et al. article as a place to start.
  2. Media Literacy Integrates into the Standards; It Doesn’t Replace Them: Use media sources to complement and enhance traditional print-based text. Create a center where students make connections between print-based text and interactive media.
  3. Media Literacy Involves Rigorous Research through a Variety of Sources: Create a center where students search information through a variety of sources and critically analyze the credibility and reliability of information.
  4. Media Literacy Requires the Use of Informational and Nonfiction Texts: News clips, newspapers from cities across the world, videos, tweets, and blogs can all provide rich sources of informational text in an interactive and timely format.
  5. Media Literacy Connects Students’ School Experiences to Broader Society through Civic Engagement: The authors recommend UNESCO’s Media and Information Literacy as a source for best practices in media and information literacy.

Resources Used in These Articles

The National Association for Media Literacy Education: Media Literacy Defined

Shelby-Caffey et al.’s Forms of Remix

  • Photoshopping remixes—Using software to digitally alter a photographic image.
  • Music and music video remixes—Changing elements of a song, other written piece, or video such that the remixed version includes content from other sources. ;
  • Machinima remixes/videos—Short for machine cinema, Machinima is a form of filmmaking in which the creator often relies on videogames to produce animation.
  • Original manga and anime fan art—Distinctive Japanese art forms; manga are printed cartoons, and anime are animated films.;
  • Moving image remixes, such as anime music videos—Editing and adding music and sound to an existing moving image.;
  • Television, movie, and book remixes; making movie trailers and creating fan fiction and fan fiction short movies—Assuming the identity of an author, director, and/or producer and then promoting or changing an original book, television show, or movie content.;
  • Political remix video and images—The use of various existing images and videos in the creation of an original piece that has a political or social message.
  • Cosplaying/Live action role playing—Short for costume play, individuals assume the identity of a character from a book, movie, or television show. While cosplaying is associated with manga and anime, it can be carried out with any well-developed characters.

Vocabulary Instruction

"'Miss Alaineus' Thoughts on Vocabulary Instruction in 21st-Century Classrooms" by Ruth McQuirter Scott

General Discussion Topic

This article describes a project that exposed preservice teachers to new models of vocabulary instruction. McQuirter Scott raises the question in her article, “How can new literacies support vocabulary instruction?” This is an essential question to ask ourselves in the era of Common Core State Standards.

Key Points

  • Traditional approaches to vocabulary instruction are solidly positioned in a transmission model of learning.
  • Digital technology makes it possible for students to experience learning through multimodalities across disciplines. Over time they become critical consumers of information from a wide range of print and nonprint sources.

Common Core Connections

Grade 8 Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.

Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).

Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Using This Article with Your Team

The seven stages of this vocabulary lesson could be applied in any content area. As the language arts teacher, you may be the resource person for your colleagues to share and model this kind of vocabulary lesson. In a team-teaching lesson or multidisciplinary unit, you may help your co-teachers develop the vocabulary lesson and use different stages in different classrooms over a period of days. You may begin in language arts by asking students to rate their knowledge of the word, but a few days later, they may view a video in social studies class that helps to expand word knowledge in the content area.

Why Not Try This?
You need to read all seven steps of this lesson in the article to get the full effect. Here are some resources to support parts of the process.

Step one of this lesson involves asking students to rate their current knowledge of the new vocabulary word. Here is a site with a sample rating sheet:

Step three suggests giving students print articles about the new term. Check out the following sources for articles directed at middle school students:

Step seven asks students to present their knowledge in creative ways. There are many Web tools that could support such creativity:

Digital Storytelling

"Bitstrips and Storybird: Writing Development in a Blended Literacy Camp" by Jessica A. Wertz

"'Hear a Story, Tell a Story, Teach a Story': Digital Narratives and Refugee Middle Schoolers" by Toby Emert

General Discussion Topic

These articles focus on digital storytelling. One is from a summer camp experience, but there are several ideas that can be used in the regular classroom. The other centers on a group of ELL students in a literacy intervention program. Brainstorm ideas and topics for digital storytelling in your classroom where you can apply these ideas.

Key Points

  • Integrating digital literacies in instruction affords an opportunity for teachers to engage students in authentic learning experiences that support the other English language arts standards.
  • Integrating new literacies into our teaching requires “using” these digital tools in instruction.
  • There are other genres of digital texts that might help us meet the goals of introducing a claim and stating a position, organizing reasons clearly, providing evidence, and formulating a conclusion that follows from the stated position.
  • The power of visual storytelling is an invitation for underachieving students to engage with a sophisticated assignment, one that demands an understanding of narrative structure, voice, grammatical constructions, technology tools, composing and editing processes.
  • Rather than a content expert, the teacher serves more as a guest artist, facilitator, and sideline coach, providing a template for the project design and demonstrating the steps in a multiphase creative process.

Common Core Connections

6th-Grade Writing: Production and Distribution of Writing

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in Standards 1–3 above.)

With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language Standards 1–3 up to and including grade 6 here.)

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

Using This Article with Your Team

The models of persuasive writing and digital storytelling in this article, like so many other ideas in this issue, lend themselves to multidisciplinary lessons. Students may explore persuasive writing using ideas from other content areas. The introduction of the concept and research may be conducted in the science or social studies classroom, and the support for persuasive writing and production of the digital story may take place in language arts.

Why Not Try This?
Wertz describes many Web 2.0 tools and resources that helped facilitate the literacy camp activities. Emert uses additional resources to support digital storytelling. Check out the links below to see the resources they used.

Resources used in these articles:

NCTE “Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies”

“Can you convince me?” from

Persuasion Map from

Notability app tutorial




Viola Spolin Theatre Games

Tableaux Vivant from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Movie Maker


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