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In the Middle: New Understandings about Writing, Reading, and Learning

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  1,529 ratings  ·  92 reviews
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 TimesReading this book can be revolutionary. . . . Atwell leads us to new understandings of teaching and learning in a workshop classroom.
- Voices from the Middle When first published in 1987, this seminal work was widely hailed
Paperback, Second Edition, 546 pages
Published February 11th 1998 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1987)
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Sue 3rd Edition 2015 :
Due to the passage of time, she's updated some of her thinking, saying things like "beware of when I said 'never' previously,…more
3rd Edition 2015 :
Due to the passage of time, she's updated some of her thinking, saying things like "beware of when I said 'never' previously, reshaped her paragraphing, inserted comments about newer YA books, included remarks about her other books, and admits to still using older technology. I wondered if that's why there's no accompanying cd or web available PDFs. It would be nice to have her figures and appendixes available in this format, rather than having people photocopy or retype and revise for their own. Surely the publisher could have afforded to pay her typist to create things in this format.(less)

Community Reviews

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Dec 14, 2007 KFedwards rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: I don't talk to people
Nancie Atwell's prose puts me in a state of pure bliss that can only be equated to the magical migration one experiences while playing The Oregon Trail on a green screen Apple II.
The book had a lot of good information I can use on teaching English, but some parts were more useful than others. My review focuses on the information in the text related to teaching writing, event though there is a significant amount of information related to the reading workshop.
The least helpful part had to be the chapter on evaluation since Atwell's experience, publications, and charter school allow her to evaluate in any way she sees fit without having to answer to public school adminis
I admit it. I have a Pinterest board for school and have downloaded a few items from Teachers Pay Teachers. They are mostly a mixed bag, however. "Here's a unit I developed. Feel free to use it once you've paid for it." To be fair, many items are free and some call for hard thinking on the part of students. What is problematic about even the very best of these ideas is that we rarely get to see the rationale behind them. Why am I supposed to start this way and finish that way? Sharing ideas like ...more
I've read (closely read the first / skimmed the second) her other two editions. This edition, I'm devouring, but cannot decide a page number. I'm here, there, and everywhere, like a squirrel trying find my next morsel. I've set up my classroom, using many of her record keeping suggestions and even asked my husband to make me one of those low-to-the-floor chart easels. My students are sitting on pillows and bean bags I made from old, barely worn T-shirts. Moving 8th graders from their seating aro ...more
Dr. Bruce
This book is the by far the best book I've ever read! Nancie Atwell discusess so many strategies teachers can use to be as effective as possible. I plan to use many of them this year with my 6th grade langauge arts students...I know they're going to be so excited about it!
I could not recommend this book more highly. Any English or elementary teacher should read this book.
In the Middle presents a fabulous approach to teaching language. It is one of those books that can refresh a stressed teacher, can fill her with ideals and ideas, and those books are very important in my world! What I found, though, was that Atwell's approach in this book really cannot be applied to my students. It can apply to me in that it presents a pedagogy I believe in and illustrates techniques that I would love to practice, but I cannot successfully practice these approaches with the stud ...more
Jessica Fisher
Megan Mather
Sarah Lodwick
ENG 315 – M 4p

In the Middle by Nancie Atwell
Read Share: Book Review

“Surviving adolescence is no small matter; neither is surviving adolescents. It’s a hard age to be and to teach.” (p 53). Nancie Atwell understands the many challenges young adolescents face as well as the challenges their teachers face. Atwell has been an educator for 37 years, specializing in middle level education. Atwell later founded the Center for Teaching and Learning in Maine, whi
Megan Mather
Jessica Fisher
Megan Mather
Sarah Lodwick
ENG 315 – M 4p
September 21, 2010

In the Middle by Nancie Atwell
Book Review

“Surviving adolescence is no small matter; neither is surviving adolescents. It’s a hard age to be and to teach.” (p 53). Nancie Atwell understands the many challenges young adolescents face as well as the challenges their teachers face. Atwell has been an educator for 37 years, specializing in middle level education. Atwell later founded the Center for Teaching and Learning in Main
Michael Wolf
I don't think I will ever truly be "done" with this book, this referendum, consortium of knowledge experiences from viable collaborations between students and teacher. The constant pattern to take away is the exposition of theme and written accompaniment to demonstrate the succinctness of intent and idea gleaned from her tasks and assignments to the ongoing growth of her writers-becoming-authors. All of the excerpts and full length pieces are worth their fair share of the read as they demonstrat ...more
There are close to 75 books on my "college" bookshelf. I bought almost all of them. This is one that I wish I had bought because I think it would be far more useful to me now than all those paperback novels and plays. I had to read this as part of my student teaching program. Although some of the ideas were excellent, I didn't see it as being practical then. Now, even though I think that Atwell's school is idealistic and doesn't even mention many of the daily problems I face, I subscribe to her ...more
As far as writing programs go, hers is one that I absolutely adore and want to incorporate into my classroom (maybe next year?). She has more freedom as a private school teacher than I do (blast those SOL tests), but there are definitely ideas that I can use. Her biggest push - and one that I particularly want to explore - is her idea of choice. As teachers, we feel that we need to give parameters for everything to ensure that students follow directions and experience as few "lost at sea" moment ...more
I took a lot from this book to help me begin to incorporate a workshop approach in my classroom, but many of the ideas related to amount of time devoted to running the workshop don't work in a traditional bell schedule for middle schools/junior highs even if a block schedule is in place. I do love that Nancie Atwell always shares her students' work, as well as her own worksheets and lessons.
a classic, but harder to implement Atwell's teaching style than she lets on.

This is the central problem of a lot of teaching books: teachers can be great at explaining what they do, but not as good at thinking about what's easy to adapt and what isn't. If only I had an encyclopedic knowledge of books and infinite patience for writing letters back to each student too!
My first exposure to the workshop model. She gives a basic outline, an brief description of how she implemented it in her classroom, changes made over time, and then student anecdotes. She obviously is in an ideal setting being that she teaches at a school she helped to found.

Useful: Giving students more choice in their writing (increase motivation), use of portfolios, drafting writing in front of students, exposure to many genres, practice with lit. devices/syles in their own writing.

Not so re
Read in order to learn more about the concepts of reading workshop and writing workshop. Atwell's stories are inspiring, and her organization and examples were really helpful. Concepts and strategies needed to be adapted for a high school setting, but worth learning from one of the best in the field.
Atwell describes an appealing approach to reading and writing. To some teachers, the approach can seem quite daunting for their situations. Dan Rothermel simplified Atwell's approach for his middle school classes and wrote Starting Points: How to Set Up and Run a Writing Workshop (Paperback) describing his modifications. Now, he uses his modifications with pre-service teachers in the Department of Education at UNE.

We are discussing how to use technology to support the approach. Noelle Richard,
A go-to book and a go-to mentor for being a successful teacher of reading and writing-- particularly in a workshop setting. Nancie Atwell is one of my professional "heroes"! I've referred to this book since it was in it's first edition!
Jennelle Zarn
If you are an English/Language Arts teacher at any level, you absolutely MUST read this book! It is one of the few college textbooks I purchased and kept and continue to use as a reference on a regular basis.
good ideas, methods, instruction, philosophy, stories, sample student writing. students need TIME, OWNERSHIP, RESPONSE to read and write pieces of their choosing. learning to read by actually reading--so simple, yet so revolutionary in our current system. want to read her other books, see what updates she made to this, since this was first published late 80's. wonder whether standardized testing makes setting up reading/writing workshop in public schools near impossible.

need to brainstorm new li
Jo Gallagher
One of the most important books I have read to influence my teaching and learning in a workshop model for the teaching of reading.
There's some great stuff in here, but I recommend getting the older edition, as there is far less anecdotal stuff. As a caveat, this woman does not work in a public school, and, thus, some of her recommendations are not realistic. On a personal note, when I attended her conference and asked, "Well, what do you do about reluctant writers?" her reply was an incredibly terse, and unrealistic, "By even asking that question, you are allowing reluctant writers in your classroom." Actually, the state k ...more
Liz B
Jul 11, 2007 Liz B rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ALL English teachers (not just middle school)
When students see themselves as readers and writers rather than students of reading and writing, they start to care. When they care, they grow tremendously. If you try this approach in your classroom (which I obviously recommend), you have to modify it to fit your style and your students' needs...and you really need to jump in and DO it, and be willing to wait for results. I usually start to see enormous leaps in writing in January, but increased proficiency in reading starts showing up as early ...more
Caroline Sterkel
Great mii-lesson ideas; surveys are wonderful; personal spelling lists are an interesting thought for the upcoming school year.
Rachel Terry
Atwell's method of teaching middle school English seems to be ideal. She combines kids' social needs with writing and reading skills as the kids are individually as kids are ready for each new skill. I like her term "writer's welfare" for the teaching method of always assigning students topics to write on. She's a big proponent of ownership. The kids have to own the ideas in order to really be interested in them. I liked that she gave very specific examples from her classes for each teaching ide ...more
Lots of usable stuff in here. I put quite a few things in practice immediately.
Reading this with my English Education students. It's as amazing as I'd always heard, and now I want every writing teacher, grades K through graduate school, to read it! It's not only chock full of great philosophy and strategies for teaching writing and reading, but also crammed with interesting writing by Atwell and her students. We would truly have a writing revolution if all teachers learned from this book and became as thoughtful and dedicated, as respectful of young writers and readers, as ...more
Margaret Grabowski
Great overall principles; I love the connection between reading and writing workshop. However, not many of the ideas were novel if you've read other books on reading and writing workshop - Atwell focuses on the format of workshop (minilesson followed by independent worktime and conferencing), as well as on what to teach and how to teach it. If I had discovered this as my first professional book though, I would have been in love!
This book has great ideas -- is the go-to book, in fact -- on reading and writing workshops. The problem with it is that we could all teach like Nancie Atwell if we ran our own schools. The teachers reading these books are held accountable to high-stakes testing and teaching to the test -- a very different day-to-day teaching scenario than Atwell. Aspects of her work are implementable in public schools, but they have to be tempered with the real demands faced by public school teachers.
Despite an open mind and the new edition, I am overwhelmed, rather than inspired. Nanci Atwell is far more organized that I will ever be; as a result, I see what she does and simply give up. I've tried taking one good thing and implementing it, and I have some success...but to do it all? I shake my head, thinking, "No way." Atwell acknowledged that issue in the new edition, but that, with 70% new material, was too much. I guess I need more focused professional development books.
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GoodReads and Reading/Writing Workshop 1 16 Dec 15, 2007 12:49PM  
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