National Council of Teachers of English Logo

Voices from the Middle Moving from Print to Practice, May 2012 (19.4) - Previous Revision

This Issue’s Focus: New Literacies

This issue focuses on new literacies, new media, and their use in the English/Language Arts classroom. Authors in this issue take us from the foundational questions of what these terms mean and why they must be important to all of our classrooms, to a wide range of examples and ways that inspired teachers are taking risks and finding success in breaking away from paper and pencil and using new literacies in exciting ways. If this idea seems overwhelming to you, look at the variety of resources and ideas in this issue and the support materials on this website, and find just one you think you could try. You don’t have to do it all at once, but take a step to try one new idea at a time.
The articles in this issue often overlap in topic or central focus. For that reason, we have grouped some of the articles together here.

New Literacies and Classroom Culture
“Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities of Using New Literacies in Middle Grades”
Margaret C. Hagood

“Middle Schools and New Literacies: Looking Back and Moving Forward”
William Kist

General Discussion Topic
Authors Margaret Hagood and William Kist write about how the use and study of new literacies affect or have become part of the culture of 21st century classrooms. Hagood chronicles her work with nine middle school teachers as they embark on a mission to integrate more digital technology and new literacies into their classrooms. These teachers collaborate in a professional learning community where they bring together a range of teaching experience and technology experience to gradually increase new literacies across their school. Kist takes a broader approach, chronicling 15 years of study on how and why middle school teachers seem to be successful in integrating new literacies. He concludes that middle school students are motivated by technology, seeing it as a natural extension of the ways they communicate outside of school. He also credits the structure of the middle school, with longer and more flexible class periods that lend themselves to technology integration. Why do you think middle schools are successful places to integrate new literacies across the curriculum?

Key Points
•    New literacies include reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and designing in print and nonprint media using pop culture and digital technologies.
•    In the classroom, adolescents engage in collaborating, communicating, and creating texts using new literacies.
•    Many teachers are aware of and often proficient at using technology in their own lives, but struggle when trying to bring those devices or applications into the classroom.
•    Middle school classrooms are particularly suited to the integration of new literacies.
•    Middle school students don’t see technology as a separate entity, but as a normal method of communication.
•    Technology is a motivating factor for middle school students.
Common Core Connection
The Common Core provides a description of what students who are college and career-ready should be able to do in the area of technology and digital media. They say that students should be able to employ technology and digital media “strategically and capably.”
“Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.”
(Common Core Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy, History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects, Introduction, p. 7)

Using These Articles with Your Team
•    Hagood describes the process teachers in her study used to become comfortable with a single new technology. Could you or your team choose one or two new technologies to focus on in a year?
•    How could you combine the use of the new technology in an interdisciplinary approach? For example, if you chose to learn to use flip cameras to make digital stories, could your students work on writing the script for a digital story that they are producing in science class as they use flip cameras to document the growth process of plants?
•    Add new technology as a standing agenda item at team meetings. Ask people to share or showcase new ideas they have discovered since your last meeting.
Why Not Try This?
•    Select one project or assignment in your current repertoire that includes writing an essay. Based on ideas in this issue, brainstorm a variety of ways you could alter that assignment to use technology. Could students create a presentation instead using PowerPoint or Prezi? Could students make a digital movie? A photo essay? Try just one idea.
•    Another approach might be to select one lesson where you traditionally have lectured to students or delivered content through direct instruction. Brainstorm one way you could use technology to vary the delivery of that content. Could you use a new presentation tool or digital movie? The point is not to revamp your entire curriculum all at once, but to challenge yourself to try one new idea.
•    Photo Story is a Microsoft download. Check Microsoft for the latest version.
•    Other links referenced in these two articles include:
o    Wiffiti
o    Voki
o    Xtranormal
o    Wordle
o    Glogster
o    Prezi
o    William Kist’s blog
Social Networking
“How Do I Earn Buy-In From Digital Natives?”
Amy Schechter and Jennifer M. Denmon

“Finding Our Way: Eighth Graders Explore Social Networking Sites”
Chris Leland, Anne Ociepka, and Kate Kuonen

“Writing Teachers Should Comment on Facebook Walls”
Allen Teng

General Discussion Topic
Social networking has become part of the fabric of our society and is a primary means of communication for our students outside of the school day. This group of articles seeks to bring that form of communication into the classroom in a safe environment so that students are thoughtful users of technology. These articles also suggest ways that teachers may tap into the motivating potential this technology has to increase the amount and authenticity of student writing and to give them a wider audience and more feedback than they get from a single source wielding a red pen. Begin the conversation about these articles by talking about your own experiences with social networking and how those experiences influence your ideas about them in the classroom. Are you a frequent user of social networks or is this new territory that your students will help you learn to navigate?
Key Points
•    Once teens begin using social networking, they are likely to engage in blogging and other activities that might be easily connected to literacy.
•    Technology has to be more than a gimmick; it must extend learning, not simply recreate a typical English class online.
•    Students are seeking an audience, especially writers. Online communities provide writers and readers with authentic feedback.

Common Core Connection
The College and Career Readiness standards for speaking/listening and for writing include media and technology as a means for communication.
College and Career Readiness Speaking and Listening Standard 1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
College and Career Readiness Speaking and Listening Standard 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
College and Career Readiness Writing Standard 6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Using These Articles with Your Team
Any of the Web tools below that can be used in a single language arts class can also be used to communicate and collaborate across a middle school team. Use these sites to allow students to collaborate on interdisciplinary writing or other projects. Use these tools to communicate as teachers when team meeting time is too short or nonexistent.
Why Not Try This?
•    The authors suggest creating Facebook or MySpace pages for characters from novels students are reading. If those applications are blocked from your school’s computer network, you could either have students make “mock” Facebook pages in a Word document using text boxes and graphics to simulate a social network page, or have them create another kind of page for the character, such as a blog. They could even post comments as characters talking to each other or commenting on the main character’s posts.
•    We assume that all students are familiar with Facebook and other social networking sites, but how familiar are they? If we want students to use these sites as models, can we use them as digital mentor texts that represent good models that communicate well? In the Comments section below, share examples of Facebook pages you know that would make good mentor texts for this kind of writing.
•    In a similar fashion, the authors suggest having students write gaming guides. Have students research gaming guides first and then contribute examples to the class as mentor texts.
•    Fan fiction may also require the use of mentor texts to give students a model or framework for this kind of writing. Ask students to help find examples of the fan fiction they like to read for use as classroom models. Some sites used by the authors include:
• is the website referenced in the article by Leland, Ociepka, and Kuonen as a safe space to set up a networking site for your classroom.
•    Teng used as the social network site for the project outlined in his article.
•    Other sites mentioned in these articles:
o (A Google product, this will take you to a Google login page.)
•    Another site to try is
Student Motivation
“Critical Media Literacy: A Pedagogy for New Literacies and Urban Youth”
Mohammed Choudry and Jeff Share

“Bridging the Disconnect: A Layered Approach to Jump-Starting Engagement”
Nanci-Werner Burke, Jane Spohn, Jessica Spencer, Bobbi Button, and Missie Morral

General Discussion Topic

Motivating students to read and write is fundamental in every successful middle school classroom. Middle school philosophy tells us that one way to motivate students is to make the curriculum relevant, challenging, exploratory, and integrative. In each of these articles, the authors have found ways to do all of these things through units and projects that take advantage of new literacies. How are these classrooms places where students were challenged? How were students able to explore? In what ways were students integrating multiple skills? How did these teachers make learning relevant to their students?
Key Points
•    Critical media literacy can be used as inquiry-based pedagogy.
•    Analyzing media and creating alternative representations with media motivates students.
•    When students can act on their own concerns, we are making learning meaningful.
•    The use of writing as a tool for engagement and learning is a necessity to prepare our students to compete in an increasingly digitized world.
•    There is a gap between the daily digital literacy practices of our students and the text-heavy, paper and pen practices of the traditional class.
Common Core Connection
College and Career Readiness Writing Standard 6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
College and Career Readiness Speaking and Listening Standard 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
By eighth grade, the reading standards for informational texts specify that students should be able to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

Using These Articles with Your Team
•    Both articles in this section could have an interdisciplinary component paired with social studies. How could you partner with the social studies teachers in your building to do asset mapping and study community resources in your own area?
•    There are several graphic novels that are nonfiction or could be considered historical fiction: Maus by Art Spiegelman or The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Representation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón or A.D. New Orleans after the Deluge by Josh Neufeld. How could graphic novel forms be used as tradebooks in an interdisciplinary unit on one of these historical events?
•    As we continue toward a presidential election, can critical questions in Choudhury and Share’s article be applied to political messages? Use this as a basis for an interdisciplinary unit on citizenship, democracy, or the political process.
Why Not Try This?
•    Combine the ideas is these articles. Choudhury and Share asked students to examine media and messages to look for bias and perspective. Werner-Burke and her colleagues started their unit on graphic novels using comics from the Sunday newspaper. Could your students examine the Sunday comics for some of the same ideas as Choudhury and Share’s students found in other sections of the newspaper? What could they learn about satire, irony, point of view, or bias from Sunday comics?
•    In another combination of these articles, if students found value in graphic novels, have them create a multimedia presentation to educate parents, other teachers, and school administrators about the educational value of graphic novels.
o    As we think about new literacies, we need to focus on the functions and skills and less on the forms or tools. There is an increasing variety of presentation tools available to students for such a project. PowerPoint and Prezi are widely used. What other tools can students use to create their presentations? Add your ideas to the Comments section below.
o    In addition to creating these presentations, think about how students can share this information. Giving presentations in class is a great way to get students thinking and practicing how to convey a message to an audience. How do we get those messages out to a wider audience? Posting on school or teacher websites? YouTube? Local media websites? Our students are sharing other messages and information with wider and wider audiences. How can we use new media literacies to add authenticity to messages created in the classroom?
Websites mentioned in these articles:
•    Center for Media literacy Key Questions
•    Ojai Foundation council format:
•    Additional sites:

Varied Approaches to Learning
“Multimodality in an Urban Eighth-Grade Classroom”
Adrienne Costello

“Shakespeare in 3D: Bringing the Bard to Life through New (Old) Media”
Nick Kremer and Harlow Stewart Sanders

General Discussion Topic
These articles provide us with examples of how teachers adapted their classrooms to incorporate a wider variety of media or technology with the teaching of drama. Consider how you can use media and technology to provide your students with more authentic experiences by either producing their own performances or responding to the performances of others.
Key Points
•    Students in our classrooms have been immersed in the integration of media, technology, and popular culture throughout their entire lives, while many educators are scrambling to catch up with the rapid technological evolution.
•    Finding ways of connecting academic experiences with relevant out-of-school literacies is more important than ever.
•    There are allusions to Shakespeare in modern media that students frequently encounter in those out-of-school literacy experiences.
•    New media allows the teaching of Shakespeare to be more authentic than ever by using recordings to enliven students’ imaginations and offer insightful oral interpretations.
Common Core Connections
Reading Standards for Literature Grades 6–12
Grade 6: Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they “see” and “hear” when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.
Grade 7: Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).
Grade 8: Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.

Using These Articles with Your Team
Drama need not be confined to the language arts classroom. Could you lead your peers in social studies or science to use role-playing activities in their classrooms to examine an issue or an important figure? If students did an improvisation of an important conversation in history or an important discovery in science, could they record that performance and then analyze the arguments in the language arts classroom based on speaking and listening standards?
Why Not Try This?
•    Add to the Comments section below examples of songs, movies, stories, novels, or other sources that quote, reference, remix, or allude to Shakespeare’s work.
Websites used in these articles:
Romeo and Juliet Prologue Act One
Romeo and Juliet Animated
•    How can you use video to enhance and support student reflection as Adrienne Costello did in her classroom? Costello used improvisation and recorded student performance for later reflection. If you need support to find improvisational activities, try these sites:
•    Consider using a private YouTube or TeacherTube channel that is password protected to post videos and allow students to reflect on their performance. Reflections could be written, blogged, or even recorded and posted as a vodcast.
Voices of Students
“From Knowledge to Wisdom: Critical Evaluation in New Literacy Instruction”
Phil Nichols

“Nontraditional Texts and the Struggling/Reluctant Reader”
Joan C. Fingon

General Discussion Topic
These two articles describe very different classroom experiences, but the common theme is clear: if we listen to what our students are telling us, we can tap into their interests and use those ideas to improve their learning. In his article, Phil Nichols did this by paying attention to his students’ comments about the purpose of technology in the classroom, while Joan Fingon was drawn to the enthusiasm students shared over the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. In both cases, students were telling them what was important, and these authors were wise enough to listen. What are your students telling you about their interests and learning needs? Are you listening?
Key Points
•    As teachers, we need to expose students to a wide variety of literacy practices and lead them in a critical inquiry about when and why particular media ought to be used.
•    Students need to know both how to use the technology to convey their message and to examine what is gained or lost in the choice of the medium.
•    Young adolescents are engaging in multiple forms of texts outside of the classroom.
•    Nontraditional texts such as the Wimpy Kid series are influencing what young adolescents are reading.
Common Core Connection
The Common Core Standards advise teachers to consider text complexity (as it is described in the standards) when choosing reading material. In grades 6–12, they ask teachers to consider qualitative and quantitative evaluations of text when matching the reader to the text and the task.
When selecting from a broad range of text types, the category of stories “includes the subgenres of adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, myths, science fiction, realistic fiction, allegories, parodies, satire, and graphic novels.”
(Common Core Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy, History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects, Standard 10, Rank, Quality, and Complexity of Student Reading 6–12, p. 57)

Speaking and Listening Standards 6–12
Grade 6: Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.

Grade 7: Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.

Grade 8: Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.

Using These Articles with Your Team
How can you work within your school to give your students an authentic audience so that their voices can be heard? If you are designing a media campaign unit similar to the one Nichols describes, how can classes work together to evaluate each other’s campaigns? Is there a resource in your school, such as a daily broadcast for announcements, where students can showcase and share their work?
Why Not Try This?
•    What other books or issues could you use like Nichols did in his media campaign assignment? Consider the social issues in titles like:
o    Nothing but the Truth by Avi—Have students create a media campaign examining the concept of patriotism and how it should be expressed.
o    The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher—Students could examine questions of censorship and intellectual freedom. Who has the right to decide what students read in the classroom?
Consider other media applications:
o    Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John—Have students design a media campaign to promote the band. How would a campaign like this use social media to persuade people to attend a concert? How is that different from a media campaign to persuade people to act on a social or political issue?
•    How can you capture student interest and expertise in a variety of media?
o    Use an expert jigsaw strategy and allow students to teach each other about the forms of media they know best.
o    Have students with an expertise in a particular medium (Web page design, video editing, or poster design) create tutorial podcasts, vodcasts, or other presentations as a resource for their peers.

Document and Site Resources

Share This On:

Page Tools:

Join NCTE Today

Related Search Terms


Copyright © 1998-2017 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved in all media.

1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283

Looking for information? Browse our FAQs, tour our sitemap and store sitemap, or contact NCTE

Read our Privacy Policy NEW! Statement and Links Policy. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use

Visit us on:
Facebook Twitter Linked In Pinterest Instagram