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In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning (2nd Edition) [Paperback]

Donald H. Graves , Nancie Atwell , Thomas Newkirk
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 11 1998 0867093749 978-0867093742 2

Recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education



Grades 6-10


When first published in 1987, this seminal work was widely hailed for its honest examination of how teachers teach, how students learn, and the gap that lies in between. In depicting her own classroom struggles, Nancie Atwell shook our orthodox assumptions about skill-and-drill-based curriculums and became a pioneer of responsive teaching. Now, in the long awaited second edition, Atwell reflects on the next ten years of her experience, rethinks and clarifies old methods, and demonstrates new, more effective approaches.

The second edition still urges educators to "come out from behind their own big desks" to turn classrooms into workshops where students and teachers create curriculums together. But it also advocates a more activist role for teachers. Atwell writes, "I'm no longer willing to withhold suggestions and directions from my kids when I can help them solve a problem, do something they've never done before, produce stunning writing, and ultimately become more independent of me."

More than 70 percent of the material is new, with six brand-new chapters on genres, evaluation, and the teacher as writer. There are also lists of several hundred minilessons, and scripts and examples for teaching them; new expectations and rules for writing and reading workshops; ideas for teaching conventions; new systems for record keeping; lists of essential books for students and teachers; and forms for keeping track of individual spelling, skills, proofreading, homework, writing, and reading.

The second edition of In the Middle is written in the same engaging style as its predecessor. It reads like a story—one that readers will be pleased to learn has no end. As Atwell muses, "I know my students and I will continue to learn and be changed. I am resigned—happily—to be always beginning for the rest of my life as a teacher."

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Product Description


“The best way to teach is to learn together with the students. One of the rare breed of teachers who do know this is Nancie Atwell.”–The New York Times

“Reading this book can be revolutionary. . . . Atwell leads us to new understandings of teaching and learning in a workshop classroom.”–Voices from the Middle

About the Author

Nancie Atwell is one of the most highly respected educators in the U.S. Her classic In the Middle has inspired generations of teachers, and her new DVDs Writing in the Middle and Reading in the Middle give us a seat in her writing and reading workshops so that we can see firsthand how she helps students become independent, sophisticated readers and writers. She is also the author of classroom materials through Firsthand. Lessons that Change Writers is a year's worth of instruction straight from Nancie's file cabinets, while Naming the World helps teachers jumpstart their literacy teaching each day the way Nancie does - with poetry, the mother genre. Nancie teaches seventh- and eighth-grade writing, reading, and history at the Center for Teaching and Learning, a K - 8 demonstration school she founded in Edgecomb, Maine, in 1990. Nancie was the first classroom teacher to receive the NCTE David H. Russell Award and the MLA Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize for distinguished research in the teaching of English. Nancie was recently named 2010 Teacher of the Year by River of Words; a California-based non-profit educational organization and also received an honorary degree from the University of New Hampshire during its 2011 commencement ceremony. Read Nancie's Education Week article in which she makes the case for literature in the core standards. To see and hear Nancie's response to the NY Times article on the place of student choice in reading, click here. Read the Article »

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, saved me ten years. Nov. 15 2007
This book has proven to be an invaluable resource in my grade 7 classroom. I had an idea of what I wanted my reading and writing program to look like, but would have struggled ten more years to put it together into something like what Ms. Atwell has articulated in her book. I owe her greatly; she has saved me so much work, and given me a place to really dig into meaningful reading and writing instruction for my students, and make it my own.

Students are leaving my class excited about writing and reading. I leave my class excited to be coming back each day. Good show!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Oct. 8 2003
By A Customer
A book that helped inspire me to become a teacher. Some other reviewers may not find it totally "practical" for them to adopt, but anyone with common sense would know that you take what works best for you from as many legitimate resources as possible and adapt.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Based on years of First Hand experience Oct. 8 2003
By A Customer
You can let students have choices about what to write and still have formal guidelines, unlike what the other reviewer/teacher wrote. Nancie Atwell's book is based on years of her own first-hand experiences in the classroom, and, as someone who assigns and reads well over 1000 formal essays per school year to over 200 students, I'll listen to Atwell's advice before some burned out teacher's rantings about the need to drill, drill, drill.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Condensed version, please July 26 2003
I bought two copies of this book from Amazon, for myself and my class aide, on the strength of the other teachers' recommendations here. The book is as good as the most enthusiastic reviewers say it is, but it is seriously flawed, and to some degree self-contradictory, because it talks too much. As good as are the author's approaches, she doesn't really need 484 pages, plus numerous appendices, to get the message across. In fact, she buries the message in verbosity.
Note that other reviewers found the book easy to read. But if you are already convinced that you want to refresh your approach to teaching reading and writing, you may grow impatient with the overabundance of anecdotes, homilies and elaboration.
Teachers know there is no itemized recipe for teaching, but a book on teaching writing could at least demonstrate the virtue of being concise. Mrs. Atwell should read her own quotes and not "cloud the issues with jargon in place of simple, direct prose...." (p. 16). (This is one of numerous quotes of Donald Graves, who returns the favor by endorsing her book in an exemplary brief foreword).
As one who likes quoting great writings in every chapter, the author could have used and applied the Hellenistic Demos: "I will be moderate in all I attempt and do Nothing to Excess."
Summary: it's just too much of a good thing. I'm going to spring for the workbook (Lessons that Change Writers) and generate even more royalties for the author, in the hopes it is more to the point.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Shift in Teaching Jan. 8 2003
Atwell's research and dedication to the true teaching of literacy in classrooms of all levels has changed my philosophy of teaching forever. Those who judge her approach without attempting to understand it, are only missing out on an innovative and fresh approach to how English should be taught.
In my own classroom of tenth graders, I have gone from yawns and glazed eyes to students who leave my classroom at the end of the school year saying "I could write for pages and pages about how you've helped me become a better writer." I still address grammar, literature, "5 paragraph" essay writing, and the dreaded (and overrated)state tests. Instead of being students who force themselves to read and write for a grade, they are readers and writers who are proud of the accomplishments they produce in literacy.
I recommend this book to anyone who is serious about changing the way literacy is taught in our schools, and creating not only engaged students, but people who love to read and write.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Atwell works in a dream world Nov. 8 2002
Nancie Atwell does not teach in the public schools of America with 40 minutes of overcrowded class time where spelling, vocab., grammar, reading, test preparation, and writing must go on. Not being able to find a website for her school, I can only assume that there are few, if any, real behavioral problem or remedial children (it is her own private school that provides the model and anecdotes for this text). I think the idea of the workshop is great, but I fear that much of Atwell won't translate to a real public school classroom.
This is a textbook for two of my grad classes in secondary English education, and many of my classmates (both certified and preservice teachers)agree that this program isn't realistic. There are so many demands on teachers to teach grammar, vocab, spelling, etc. and such a short time to do it, that I can't see how one could effectively hold writing workshops or teach district requirements, let alone do both.
As a matter of fact, my writing class had a speaker who is an Atwellian just last week. She teaches no grammar lessons, vocab, or spelling to her 8th graders. They don't write formal essays (because they are choosing what they write). They spend some mini-lessons reviewing how the NY ELA exam works, and that seems to be all the prep that they get. She says that her students do no worse on the ELA than students from traditional classrooms, but they don't do any better, either. I am curious as to how they do in 9th grade when they haven't written a single formal essay about literary technique (other than on the ELA) and then are expected to write essays about literary elements and techniques almost exclusively.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great textbook...definitely a keeper!
I had to read this book for a college class in my middle childhood education program, and I can tell you that it is not one I will sell back at the end of the semester. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2002 by "ebondie4"
5.0 out of 5 stars My teaching Bible
This book is honestly my Bible for workshop teaching. I refer to it constantly. The Appendices are a dream for a first year teacher like myself. Read more
Published on July 2 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant resource for Language Arts Teachers
Stuck on deciding the best way to implement reading or writing workshops? This is the book to have. The book is nothing less than a workshop in a box with concrete, implementable... Read more
Published on June 8 2002 by Steven Kral
5.0 out of 5 stars Nancie Atwell Introduces the Reading and Writing Workshop
Atwell introduces her teaching experiences with chapters about how teach writing and reading to the fragile adolescent age groups. Read more
Published on April 3 2002 by Robert W. Dunkin
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for middle school teachers
This is an extraordinary book. Atwell seems to be a master at getting her students to perform. I cherish this text.
Published on July 24 2001 by AJVoigt
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unselfish Guideline for Reading/Writing Workshops
For those entering the teaching field for the first time, changing schools or situations, or returning after a lengthly time off this book is a step-by-step guide for setting up... Read more
Published on May 20 2001 by Karen A Glennon
5.0 out of 5 stars Good FOR All Teachers
Aimee Duncan Miami University Oxford, Ohio
In the Middle. Nancy Atwell. 1998. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc.
Remember middle school? Read more
Published on April 17 2001 by aimee duncan
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