Theme: Quality Teaching: 5 Years Later


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Voices from the Middle
Volume 23, Number 4, May 2016

Theme: Quality Teaching: 5 Years Later

Calls for Manuscripts

Editors’ Message: All Eyes on Quality Teaching
Diane Lapp, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey

Quality Teaching in Inclusive Settings
Rebecca Brooks
Abstract: All students have the right to a quality education. In order to achieve this, students must be provided with quality teaching consisting of collaboration, personal supports, universal design, and administrative support. Each of these four essential key components plays a critical role in the success of all students taught in an inclusive setting where students with a variety of learning needs are taught together. While each key component is discussed in detail separately, it is important to recognize how they are intertwined and harmoniously implemented.

Doing the Impossible: Motivating Middle School Students
Andrea Davis and Leslie Forbes
Abstract: This article explores one sixth-grade teacher's language arts practices with a specific focus on how she builds a motivational and respectful classroom culture. Using a quote from Alfie Kohn, claiming "it is impossible to motivate students, " the authors then use Kohn's suggestions for what a teacher might do to motivate student learning and share specific classroom strategies.

Motivating Dialogue: When Seventh Graders Own Their Learning through Discourse Analysis
Jennifer S. Dean, Christian Z. Goering, and Tara Nutt
Abstract: This insight from classroom practice shares the experience of having seventh-grade students participate in discourse analysis of their own classroom dialogue, a Socratic circle they'd completed the previous day. By challenging students with activities that are typically reserved for graduate students and college professors, this practice positively influenced motivation and offers a model others can repeat as they attempt to push students to delve deeper into text through dialogue, improve the quality of discussion, and create reflective learners empowered to understand deeply what happens in school.

Making Complex Texts a Reality for All Students: Dynamic Scaffolding that Bridges the Gaps Between Student and Text
Dan Reynolds and Amanda P. Goodwin
Abstract: The Common Core requires students to read complex texts and their teachers to scaffold such reading. To investigate dynamic scaffolding in practice, we developed a four-lesson guided-reading curriculum and paired it with a list of scaffolds at different levels (vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension) for tutors to use during instruction with diverse middle level readers. Tutors scaffolded across levels and differentiated their comprehension (but not vocabulary or fluency) scaffolding by student ability. Scaffolding was both flexible and consistent according to the demands of the text and the needs of the readers. Examples of scaffolding and a guide for teachers are provided.

Shifts and By-Products: A Five-Year ELA Evolution
Jessica Frie, Amanda Sass-Henke, and Katie Stanley
Abstract: Three secondary teachers share the evolution of their ELA department at Orono Middle School over the past five years in which they navigated changes in assessment, standards, and student and teacher roles in the classroom. In this article, the authors describe three key shifts in teaching practices at their middle school: using more complex texts, bundling the standards, and embedding informational text. The article concludes by sharing the positive by products of these shifts that they have observed in their students and the realization that the changes over the last five years have changed not just the students' thinking, but their thinking as well.

Designing a Reading Curriculum to Teach the Concept of Empathy to Middle Level Learners
Matthew T. Vogt, Yuen Pun Chow, Jenny Fernandez, Chase Grubman, and Dylan Stacey
Abstract: Postmodern forms of young adult literature encourage readers to not only question and challenge the status quo but to implement changes to the world around them. Realistic YA fiction works like Wonder by R.J. Palacio and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie are no exception to this phenomenon. Both push young readers to view people with disabilities and people from unfortunate economic circumstances from empathetic rather than sympathetic perspectives. Realistic picturebooks, specifically ones that explore concepts of disabilities and social class, also play a role in classrooms with older children. Works like Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting and Keeping Up With Roo by Sharlee Mullins Glenn both address social class and disabilities but do so in a potentially superficial and stereotypical way. This does not mean that such works are without value in upper-age classrooms since they provide a basic introduction to these concepts. This article takes on four separate and brief studies that discuss how the selection of the aforementioned texts can speak to students who have been ostracized by the schools they attend. Each section analyzes themes, ideologies, representations of accuracy and authenticity, and classroom applications to illustrate how the careful selection of realistic fiction can lead to quality instruction.

Safe Zones: Supporting LGBTQ Youth through Literature
Karen Wood, Brian Kissel, and Erin Miller
Abstract: Quality instruction can only begin when students feel safe in their classrooms. This sense of safety needs to extend to all students and all dimensions of diversity. For members of the LGBTQ community, creating safe spaces in schools is a national imperative. Here we illustrate how teachers can create safe zones by using literacy strategies in combination with LGBTQ literature to promote conversation, address stereotypes, and create a safe zone of kindness and acceptance within classrooms and share literature dealing with issues related to themes of social justice, prejudice, and LGBTQ students.

The Power of Pleasure Reading: The Case of Dystopias
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Michael W. Smith
Abstract: This article reports on research into the pleasure reading of middle school students who are passionate readers of texts often marginalized in school. In this article, we focus on readers of dystopian novels.  We report on four kinds of pleasure that were experienced by all readers in the study, demonstrate how each pleasure was experienced by dystopia readers, discuss the importance of each to human development and learning, and then explore how teachers can promote each pleasure in various ways.

Fostering “Good” Writers: Making Writing Meaningful
Gage Jeter
Abstract: In order to address the misconception that "good" writing equals errorfree writing, this article reports the need for students to create meaningful works of writing. Students who struggle with aspects such as grammar, usage, and mechanics often describe themselves as bad writers or claim that they don't like writing. By implementing relevant writing projects in the English classroom, students are able to see how writing works in the real world. Teachers should recognize that writing is situational and tailor their expectations to meet the needs of both their students and the writing situation. Specific writing assignments and projects are described.

Quality Teaching: Seven Apps That Will Change the Way You Teach in the English Language Arts Classroom
James Marshall
Abstract: Apps have prompted educators to rethink and reimagine instructional practices. With student access to technology in- and outside of the classroom continuing to grow, educators face important decisions, and seemingly limitless options, about where to invest their instructional capital. This article profiles and provides classroom examples of seven apps that may challenge your notion of teaching in the English language arts classroom. Each app aligns with one or more best instructional practices and, when implemented with purpose, can result in a higher quality of instruction for students. The article also provides a helpful tool that will help educators select a suitable app for their work with students based on instructional needs.

Book Talk: Guys DO Read—and Some of That Reading Should Be about Gals
Column edited by Nancy Roser. Multiple reviewers.
Abstract: Taking author John Scieszka’s literacy initiative for boys, called Guys Read, as a jumping off point, the reviewers here recommend books for middle level readers that feature remarkable girls in sports, politics, science, and the arts that are exciting reads—even for guys.

Teaching the Common Core: Responding to Young Adult Literature: A Motivational Perspective
Maureen McLaughlin and Alexandra Gibb-Lucas
Abstract: This article discusses motivating young students to respond to literature in creative ways. The authors begin by describing how motivation influences readers and how teaching students to use multiple representations of thinking can motivate them to read. Next, they present four performance projects in which middle level students readily engage: first-person author studies, form poems, lyric summaries, and transmediations. They then detail each project and provide classroom examples to support its use. Student examples throughout the article are based on both classic and contemporary young adult titles. Finally, they connect the four projects to the Common Core State Standards.

CODA: Making Learning Matter: Integrating Curriculum and Service Learning Projects
Emily Morgan
Abstract: The author reflects on her teaching career: what matters the most for her as an educator and how to make instruction matter for students.