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

Front Cover
Nancie Atwell
Boynton/Cook, 1998 - Education - 546 pages
36 Reviews

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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I enjoy her humility and her writing style. - Goodreads
Too hard to read cover to cover. - Goodreads
The Writing Workshop Bible. - Goodreads

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

User Review  - Amy - Goodreads

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 ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Annette Steele - Goodreads

So far I am loving this book. It is full of excellent ideas! Read full review


Always Beginning
Learning How to Teach Reading
Making the Best of Adolescence

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About the author (1998)

NANCIE ATWELL 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.

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