Calls for Manuscripts

Upcoming Voices from the Middle Themes


NOTE: The term of the current coeditors, Sara Kajder and Shelbie Witte, will end with the May 2021 issue. This page includes calls for manuscripts for the first year of the term of incoming coeditors Shanetia Clark, Robyn Seglem, and Matt Skillen.

Read the submission guidelines

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YEAR 1: Middle by Design
Volume 29 of Voices from the Middle centers around the theme of design thinking. You may ask, “What is ‘design thinking’ and why focus on this?” Design thinking is nonlinear, and it fits into the complex, dynamic, and energetic spaces of the middle level classroom. We gravitate toward design thinking because it involves developing empathy, navigating ambiguity, being flexible, and ideating based on feedback from stakeholders. Design-thinking mindsets have brought remarkable and life-changing ideas to market, and the resulting devices, products, and processes have embedded almost seamlessly into our lives. Design processes and writing processes overlap in remarkable ways. So, what happens if we incorporate design thinking into our educational spaces? How can creativity, composition, and design collide in your teaching and students’ learning? This year, we seek to explore these questions, as well as others, by diving deeper into the core tenets of design thinking and the middle level ELA classroom.

September 2021: Designing for Empathy
Design thinking begins with empathy—the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. As educators, we are working with students who come from varying backgrounds with varying degrees of experience. Often when designing for instruction, we create a lesson first and then work to fit our students into that lesson. What happens if we flip that equation and look to our students first before designing our lessons? If we are designing for our students, we need to better understand them. Educators also need to model empathy for our students. Through empathy, our students have the opportunity to remake our world. In this issue, we invite you to explore ways you nurture empathy within yourself, as well as within your students. What does empathy look like in your classroom (either in a physical or virtual space)? How do you use observation in order to better understand your students, and how does that manifest in your instruction? How do you provide opportunities for your students to interact with others outside your local context? In what ways do you immerse students in experiences designed to help them better understand others’ perspectives? Submission deadline: December 30, 2020

December 2021: Navigating Ambiguity
The ability to navigate ambiguity is absolutely essential in creative processes. Being able to explain abstract ideas clearly to others, access unconventional resources for valuable insight and information, and move freely between abstract and concrete thinking are all tools that would serve our students well in a variety of contexts. Working through and with ambiguity calls for us to recognize that issues have more than one interpretation, that not all problems have immediate or clear-cut solutions, and that we need to be patient while a resolution becomes clear. How do you address ambiguity in your classroom or learning community? Where do you see your students most successfully use creativity to answer hard questions? Does the unknown energize you? How do you leverage this energy to create in your teaching practice? If you could describe ambiguity, what would it look like or feel like? How do you guide students through the ambiguity they see in their worlds? Who are the mentors who have helped you in your own periods of ambiguity? When is ambiguity invited in your teaching and learning? Submission deadline: March 15, 2021

March 2022: Embracing Flexibility
Like the writing process, design thinking can be visualized by working within different creative stages: empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing. Also like the writing process, design thinking isn’t linear. It requires flexibility. The strongest designers welcome change, and thus they become very nimble and adaptable. Within the language arts, stories can play a role in promoting flexible thinking. They can inspire new ideas, helping us consider solutions for challenging problems. Likewise, writing prompts us to explore multiple paths forward, shifting according to changes in audience, context, feedback, or new information. In this issue, we invite you to consider what flexibility looks like in your classroom. How do you adapt your ideas in order to meet your students’ needs and interests? How do you structure learning so that students work in spaces or at paces that work best for them? In what ways do you encourage students to approach learning in a flexible manner? How do your assessment practices make room for students who take an assignment in a different direction? Submission deadline: June 15, 2021

May 2022: Reflecting through Feedback
Feedback is a vital part of design thinking. When others challenge our ideas, we must look at them from a different perspective. When others provide suggestions for our work, we can develop work that is more innovative than what we would create on our own. When others compliment our efforts, we develop confidence to continue creating. Who are your design partners at your school, and how do you work together to create memorable learning for students? How do you incorporate feedback from multiple stakeholders into your learning environment? How do you help students learn to provide feedback that pushes their peers’ thinking forward? How do you help students see feedback as directed at their work rather than at them? In what ways do you develop a trusting environment that nurtures positive feedback? What does your reflecting through your feedback look like? In what ways do your gather and reflect on feedback from your students, parents/guardians, and other community members? Submission deadline: August 15, 2021