Issue Theme: Building Our Community: 25th Anniversary Issue


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Issue Theme: Building Our Community: 25th Anniversary Issue

OFFICE HOURS: Celebrating 25 Years of Teacher Writing
Sara Kajder and Shelbie Witte

Voices from the Field: Why Does Middle Level Matter?
Abstract: Thoughts from teachers, students, editors, and others about why teaching in the middle grades is a special kind of teaching and about how Voices from the Middle continues to fill a need for teachers of that age group.

Honoring the Past; Looking to the Future (Vol. 18, No. 4, May 2011)
Jim Johnston
Abstract: Middle Section member Johnston traces the history of NCTE's Middle Level Section, from the growing acknowledgment that middle level teachers have specific needs and concerns that must be addressed to voting for the Section’s establishment to presenting at the NCTE Annual Convention with a student who had once considered himself to be a nonreader. He urges readers to get involved and to reap the benefits—for them, for their students, and for the Section—of exchanging ideas, experiences, and dreams.

YA VOICES Leap and the Net Will Appear
Laurie Halse Anderson
Abstract: YA author Anderson discusses the parallels between the beginnings of the journal and the beginnings of her writing career.

Portfolio Cultures: Literate Cultures (Vol. 2, No. 1, Feb. 1995)
Dennie Palmer Wolf, Eunice Ann Greer, and Joanna Lieberman
Abstract: This early editorial describes efforts to apply literacy across all subject areas rather than relegating it to reading class or just language arts. Portfolio cultures encourage teachers to teach literacy skills in all disciplines. "Literacy learning has to overflow into mathematics, Spanish, earth science, and community service. No stopping until it is wall-to-wall."

From the Middle: A Quarter Century Later
Dennie Palmer Wolf and Steven J. Holochwost
Abstract: In the 1990s, we were optimistic about turning public education around. At this moment, it is much harder, though no less vital, to muster that same hope: Horace Mann’s vision of public education as “the great flywheel of equality” is battered and threatened. We offer 4 challenges to middle school communities to ensure they are not just following the standards but are continuing to provide support for students to achieve the goals the standards have set in place.

To Open Hearts (Vol. 5, No. 1, Feb. 1998)
Maureen Barbieri
Abstract: The author notes how poetry and teaching poetry is a way to pay attention to the world, to feel connected to other people—a conduit to each student's truest discoveries, offering solace and courage and wisdom and survival.

Still Bright and Open: To Maureen Barbieri
Naomi Shihab Nye
Abstract: Nye responds to Barbieri's paean to poetry by showing that the aspects of poetry Barbieri discussed in 1998 still bring us more in touch with our present in this age of devices and truncated communication.  

Writing Giants, Columbine, and the Queen of Route 16 (Vol. 9, No. 1, Sept. 2001)
Penny Kittle
Abstract: "I was a writing teacher who didn't write," confesses Kittle, as she reflects on her evolution from writing teacher to a teacher who writes. Tragedy inspired her to write, and writing mentors gave her the courage to share her writing with her class. The end of the story is just a beginning: by becoming a writer, by experiencing the process with her students, her teaching was renewed.

On Joy, Teaching, and the Deep Satisfaction of Writing
Penny Kittle
Abstract: On the leading edge of the push to write with your students, Kittle now reflects on how the way she teaches writing has changed as her writing confidence has grown over the years. "Write with your students, yes. But mostly, write for you."

Difficult Days and Difficult Texts (Vol. 9, No. 2, Dec. 2001)
Robert E. Probst
Abstract: Probst suggests that all teaching in literature classes is in some ways preparation for national tragedies such as the one that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. He argues that teachers teach students to read events such as these by showing them how to move from reaction to reflection, and from image to empathy; and to write so that they capture their thinking, reexamine it, and present it to others.

Impossible Days and Simple Texts
Robert E. Probst
Abstract: A decade-plus after 9/11, we have entered a world with a flood of information. We are aware of nationwide and worldwide events more quickly, in more detail, and with less factual evidence than ever before. It has become clear that there is no possible way to avoid politics when teaching literacy in the current US classroom. Teachers must find a way to encourage students to be skeptical of the news and find the truth in the glut of instant information and "eyewitness" accounts that are currently available.

What Matters about Literacy Now? (Vol. 10, No. 3, Mar. 2003)
Leila Christenbury
Abstract: The foundation of any lasting change or improvement in education in the United States is the individual teacher in the individual classroom, working in service of students' learning.

Let Them Fly: What Still Matters about Literacy
Katherine Sokolowski
Abstract: Teachers are doing amazing things—inspiring their students in ways that would astound folks, if they could just see into our classrooms. We need to find a way to share the work we are doing, to inspire our students to reach.

Creating a Circle of Learning: Teachers Taking Ownership through Professional Communities (Vol. 16, No. 4, May 2009)
Robyn Seglem
Abstract: Through the participation in professional learning communities, teachers can reinvigorate their teaching careers. Support systems like the National Writing Project allow teachers to build upon their own strengths, as well as learn from others across all grade levels and disciplines. While more traditional professional development options often consist of one-day workshops, professional learning communities continue to push members to grow as learners and educators, ultimately impacting student learning. These communities can provide a model for teachers to use in their own classrooms, providing tools to unlock student potential, as well as teacher potential.

Looking Back to Look Forward: The Transformative Power of Ongoing, Collaborative, Teacher-Driven Professional Development
Robyn Seglem, Melissa VanZant, and Sarah Bonner
Abstract: Collectively, teachers have the power to leverage their voices and empower their students. They must continue to expand and enhance their skills by demanding professional development. It is crucial to the future success of schools.

Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities of Using New Literacies in Middle Grades (Vol. 19, No. 4, May 2012)

Margaret C. Hagood
Abstract: New literacies are affecting the ways that we choose to spend our time in teaching and learning. In this article, Hagood describes the work of nine middle grades teachers’ explorations of new literacies, including digital technologies and pop culture, and their implementations in their content area instruction. She also highlights some of the risks and rewards of working with new literacies and explains the responsibilities of sharing learning with others.

Low Tech Does Not Equal No Tech: Making Student-Driven Learning Work with Limited Technology
Alyssa Fontela and Chris White
Abstract: While there is currently a technology explosion happening, with myriad tech tools mentioned as having classroom potential, the reality for most schools is that tech is expensive. Teachers hoping to capitalize on lessons that incorporate technology must be careful not to assume the tools they plan to use will be available. Fontela and White demonstrate that a little flexibility can help teachers pivot when tech plans fail. "Technology is first and foremost a tool. How the students use the tool to develop their own thoughts is what makes it useful, not the extra bells and whistles."

Finding Flow: The Power of Motivation and Pleasure (Vol. 23, No. 1, Sept. 2015)
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Abstract: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow posits that when people are most engaged, they have achieved a state of mind where they are totally immersed in the activity to an extent where nothing else can interfere or interrupt it. The conditions necessary to create a “flow” experience are quite similar to the conditions for pleasure discovered by the author in his own research. The key to motivation, then, is to attempt to cultivate the conditions of flow and the listed conditions for pleasure in classroom work.

With Love, All Things Are Possible: What We Are Still Missing and Why Middle Level May Be the Last Best Chance to Get It
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Abstract: Motivation, pleasure, and deep engagement are necessary to all teaching and learning—particularly the kinds we are now required to do in schools. These three aspects are missing from next generation standards like the Common Core. It is up to teachers to insure those elements are part of our classroom practices

Anthem or Nah? Culturally Relevant Writing Instruction and Community (Vol. 23, No. 2, Dec. 2015)
Latrise P. Johnson and Elizabeth Eubanks
Abstract: This article examines the utilization, implementation, and impact of an original writing lesson—the anthem essay.  The anthem essay lesson was designed to prepare preservice teachers to teach a structured writing lesson for middle level writers.  This culturally relevant lesson prompted emerging writers to focus on and interrogate social issues at play in their personal lives and within their communities. Through dialogue, discussion, and collaboration, students were prepared to write community—that is, when writing is not only for the individual, but linked to how we belong with each other in the world. In other words, students write within and for community. The anthem essay invited and centered student ideas while interrupting traditional ways of teaching essay writing for young adolescent writers.

From HIT PEEE POOP to Authentic Critical Writing: Growing Pains in Middle Level ELA
Heather D. Anderson

Abstract: This article reflects a teacher's realization that, while her catchy songs and mnemonics geared toward the young adolescent sense of humor help students memorize rules, they do not really foster authentic understanding or deeper thinking about any of the content they create. After reading "Anthem or Nah?", Anderson adapted one of her writing lessons and was able to get her students more engaged in not just writing, but in their thinking about themselves, their classmates, and society as a whole.

EVERYDAY ADVOCATES: Discovering and Developing Our Own Expertise
Cathy Fleischer
Abstract: This column helps show readers ways to raise their voices in advocacy, expanding on methods discussed at—A Toolkit for Teachers. In the debut column, Fleischer discusses ways to work smart.

NOTES FROM THE NERDY BOOK CLUB: The Nerdy Box: Social Awareness and Empathy Edition
Abstract: This month, the Nerdy team offers up their version of a subscription box. You can always find them at

STUDENT VOICES: We Are Doing Our Best, Sam, to Listen and Learn
Linda Rief
Abstract: Linda  Rief crafts this column, writing alongside her middle school students, to show the beauty and possibilities that lie within the words our students use to make sense of their world. In this issue, the Bowtie Boys (a group of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders) talk with Rief about advice they would give to teachers.

RESEARCH VOICES: Depth or Breadth?
Lisa Scherff
Abstract: This column aims to make current research more accessible to classroom teachers and to help find ways to apply it in the classroom. In her debut column, Scherff looks at close reading.

NEW VOICES Teaching Mentors Matter: A Critical Relationship to Retain and Develop Great Teachers
Christopher Lehman
Abstract: The New Voices column explores the struggles, successes, and dreams of early-career middle level educators, from preservice through sixth year. In this issue, Lehman discusses the problem of teacher retention.

Notes from the Middle Level Section: The First Chapter
Amy Gutierrez Baker
Abstract: This column brings news from the NCTE Middle Level Section steering committee. This month, we learn how one member of the Middle Level Section Steering Committee found her people.