A publication of the National Middle School Association (www.mnsa.org)
This journal is magazine-style. It’s well-designed and easy to read – but not without its inconveniences. The artwork is strategically placed for good effect and doesn’t overpower the text. Even the pages with full color are wisely designed so that the text stands out. Good examples of well-balanced page design are pages 20-21 in the August 2009 issue and pages 10-13 in the August 2008 issue.
The covers feature a single child, usually in a classroom setting. I appreciate the nod to tolerance and equanimity wherein children on the cover represent various cultures. Articles have section headings, which I really like. I’m not a fan of using sans serif type for vast amounts of text, but the size of the text makes it fairly easy to read. Content is kept pretty tight. Not a wasted word nor a superfluous phrase. This leads me to why I enjoy reading this journal – the articles are informative, concise, descriptive, and they have useful side elements like lists, charts, pictures – cleverly integrated into the page design.
They also have one of the cleanest tables of contents that I’ve ever seen. Again – sans serif type, but small and bold, which works just fine. There’s a lot to describe, but I’d rather show you.
Not every issue is as good as August 2009. February 2008 had an article titled “Transitions: Smoothing the Way for Students and Parents”. The overall layout was good. Pale artwork on a white background. Standard sans serif font, useful section headings. But the text was too pale – more dark gray than black. In fact, the whole issue was like that. It got frustrating fast. Plus, it was crazy with ads, and in some places, it was difficult to tell the article from the ad copy.
On top of all that, the paper is excellent quality, so excellent, so slick, so glossy…too glossy, too slick, don’t read it under direct light or you’ll get cataracts – if you can hold on to it to begin with.
Some of my fav articles:
§ “Teaching Vocabulary: Work Smarter, Not Harder.” Wormeli, Rick. February 2008.
§ “Getting to Know You: Mixing It Up at Lunch”. Patersin, Jim. February 2008.
§ “Lifelong Study Strategies for Middle Grades Learners”. Misulis, Katherine. August 2009.
§ “Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leaders”. Beavers, Michelle. August 2009.
§ “Thinking Skills: The Board Game”. Bower, David. October 2007.
§ “Don’t Listen: Advice That May Kill Your Classroom”. October 2007.
§ “Taming The Tardies: Every Minute Counts”. October 2007. Sprick, Randy and Daniels, K.
§ “What’s in Your iPod? Mixing Music and Meaning”. Marcus, Jaime. August 2008.
§ “The ‘Absolutes’ of Vocabulary Instruction”. Wood, Karen and Harmon, Janis.
§ “Essential Questions: Mining for Understanding”. Dunbar, Folwell
§ February 2009: Incorporation art and music across the curriculum.
§ “News to Use” section in every issue.
I almost never read the editor’s note. The same with the executive director’s note. Just a personal choice. I haven’t analyzed why I flip through those pages with nary a glance. Although, now that I think about it, that type of audience-specific/location-specific writing might be a useful writing lesson.
You get your money’s worth out of this journal. One of its strengths is that is covers practices and techniques for all subjects. Philosophically, its content is strongly cross-curricular. Also, not only does it cover pedagogy, but offers helpful articles on professionalism, first-year survival and teacher retention, and not just administrative practices, but leadership by administration, teachers AND students. The ads aren’t too overwhelming, but they are loud and frequent.