In the Middle: New Understanding About Writing, Reading, and Learning / Edition 2

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“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

Atwell, founder and teacher at a K-8 demonstration school in Maine, urges middle school educators to come out from behind their desks and turn classrooms into workshops where students and teachers create the curriculum together. Includes several hundred mini-lessons with scripts and examples for teaching them, ideas for teaching conventions, and systems for record keeping. Seventeen appendices offer forms for keeping track of individual student work, and lists of favorite adolescent literature. This second edition contains new chapters on genres, evaluation, and the teacher as writer. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780867093742
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 2/11/1998
  • Edition description: Subsequent
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 546
  • Sales rank: 274,393
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancie Atwell is one of the most highly respected educators in the U.S. Her classic In the Middle, now in its third edition, has inspired generations of teachers. Visit for exclusive blogs from Nancie about the third edition. Systems to Transform Your Classroom and School takes you inside her school to see what innovations have made the biggest impact on learning schoolwide, while her DVDs Writing in the Middle and Reading in the Middle give us a seat in her writing and reading workshops to see firsthand how she helps students become independent, sophisticated readers and writers. Nancie 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 taught 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 ยป
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Table of Contents

Always Beginning

Learning How to Teach Writing

Learning How to Teach Reading

Making the Best of Adolescence

Writing and Reading Workshop

Getting Ready

Getting Started


Responding to Writers and Writing

Responding to Readers and Reading

Valuing and Evaluating

Teaching with a Capital "T"

Taking Off the Top of My Head

Call Home the Child: Memoir

Hanging with Big Sis: Fiction

Finding Poetry Everywhere

Taking Care of Business


A. Materials for Writing, Reading, and Publishing

B. Ways Student Writers Can Go Public

C. Kinds of Writing That Emerge in Writing Workshop

D. Writing Survey

E. Reading Survey

F. Student Writing Record/Sample Record

G. Student Reading Record/Sample Record

H. Personal Spelling List/Sample List

Weekly Word Study/Sample Study

J. Peer Writing Conference Record

K. Editing Checksheet

L. Favorite Adolescent Literature

M. Favorite Collections of Poetry

N. Quotes for the Walls of a Writing-Reading Workshop

O. Final Self-Evaluation of Writing and Reading

P. Weekly Homework Assignment Sheet

Q. Recommended Resources for Teachers of Middle School Writing, Reading, and Literature

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2005

    The BEST

    Nancy Atwell helped make a non-traditional classroom acceptable. Happily, the concept of the writing workshop is now becoming more the norm. You can't miss with this book or with any of Atwell's books. She is an inspiration to teachers who truly love their students and want them to learn. Warning: Atwell's books are NOT about how to pass standardized tests or boost scores. Her emphasis is totally focused on real education.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2002

    Essential for Every Writing Teacher

    For three years now, I have used this book (and the first edition) in teaching my writing classes. Parents and other teachers are astounded and incredibly impressed at the volume and quality of the writing my students turn out during their year with me. This book made it so easy for me to make the switch to writing workshop. Information on how to get started, and what to do at every phase of the workshop, is so detailed and practical that any teacher could read it and turn out amazing young authors. Every writing teacher needs this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2001

    Changed My Teaching Philosophy Forever

    In the Middle completely changed the way I teach high school English. My students have read and written more this year than in all my years of teaching combined. Nancie Atwell is a genius in the field of workshopping!! This book is written for teachers, by a teacher.

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