2019 March Voices from the Middle, v26.3
Issue Theme: Asking Real Questions
Calls for Manuscripts
Office Hours: Literacy Teaching Requires Inquiry Work
Sara Kajder and Shelbie Witte
Leading the Call: Engaging Students in Shared Inquiry
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.
YA Voices: At the Heart of It
Award-winning author Deb Caletti shares what it means to “write what you know.’’
Inspired Inquiry: Three Classroom-Based Approaches to Genius Hour
Ricki Ginsberg and Pamela K. Coke
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
Language Field Guides: Co-Vocabulary Curriculum through Inquiry
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.
Teaching with YA Lit: Questionception: Asking Questions about Using Questions to Teach YA Literature
Three teachers of YA literature answer the question, "What question(s) help students to engage with YA literature in fresh and interesting ways?"
Embracing Uncertainty: When Inquiry Drives the Reading Conference
Danielle Lillge and Alison Utley Crane
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.
Passion Projects: Creating Space for Adolescents to Ask Real Questions
Jessica West and Brooke Franklin
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.
Student Voices: Asking Real Questions
In this issue, one student’s inquiry about his own identity is nurtured through class reading and writing.
From Curveballs to Agates: Scaffolding Inquiry with Seventh Graders
Nicholas Stenske and Mary F. Wright
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.
New Voices: Their Words, Your Voice
Sarah Brown Wessling
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.
Hero’s Journey: A Yearlong Curriculum
Karla V. Kingsley, Margo Collier, Rebecca Sánchez, Yen Pham, and Alissa Sanchez
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.
Affiliate Voices: Great Things Happening at the State Level
In this issue, we learn about events happening with affiliates in California, New Mexico, Oregon, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Notes from the Middle Level: Project-Based Learning at the Beginning
Middle Level Section Steering Committee member Justin Stygles reminds us that access to reading is at the heart of all inquiry.