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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2002
Atwell introduces her teaching experiences with chapters about how teach writing and reading to the fragile adolescent age groups. In the following chapters she describes, in detail, her procedure of the "writing and reading workshop" for teaching in her classroom. She goes into great detail about how she prepares herself before the students ever come to class, what she does in the first week of school and how she introduces the workshop technique to her students, her use of minilessons, how she responds to students' writing and how she values and evaluates the students' writing. This book is very thorough in its descriptions of how to teach the workshop style of reading and writing. Atwell walks the reader through every step to make this technique successful. She gives many examples of dialogue she, as a teacher, has had with students showing the reader how she handled particular situations that had come up. It leaves no question unanswered. I believe this book is very helpful to teachers who wish to teach this method. Atwell captures her audience by using real stories and references to experts in this field who have studied this technique for years. Although this is a very involved technique and some beginners may feel overwhelmed by the detail, I highly recommend it.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2001
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 reading/writing workshops in your classroom. It can be adapted for any grade level. It includes conversations, worksheets, tips, assessments and practical suggestions how to handle most situations with writing/reading with children struggling to define themselves. Nancie Atwell is an unselfish educator willing to share herself and what she has learned with her students and fellow teachers. An invaluable guide. I wish I could take a class or workshop with Nancie Atwell. She must be someone special.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 1999
Atwell's new IN THE MIDDLE outclasses the old text by a mile. She really has broken through the questions and concerns raised in the old "cookbook" style IN THE MIDDLE of the eighties to an outstandingly researched and written, comprehensive" how to" for teachers of reading and writing. I am applying her ideas to my high school English classes with astonishing results. This is a book for secondary school English teachers who really want to change what they do and how they do it..
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2001
This year, for the first time, I am using many of Atwell's ideas in my English classroom, and it is working a hundred times better than I had ever dreamed! Most specifically, I have patterned my writing instruction for my students, grades 6-10, after her writing workshop. Kids who hated writing before now cheer when they know it's a Wednesday or Friday--our writing days. My students are writing more than they ever did, and they enjoy it. I also love it, because their writing is suddenly interesting and full of life.
Although this book makes a terrific handbook, be prepared to make some changes for your own classroom. As Atwell says, these are the methods that work for her in her specific situation. I have made up other forms and other guidelines that fit my school's curriculum and makeup. For example, I do the workshop two days per week. I also have specific types of writing required for the student portfolios, then they may work within those limits. I found this helpful so my students would try a variety of writing, and also fit the district curriculum requirements. Still, the premise, in both theory and practice, is extremely helpful and inspiring. Read the book, then adapt it to your own class.
As for the reading section, I do some reading workshop, but it is not quite as successful. The weekly literary letters are quite cumbersome, for example. The theory is still interesting, and may work better for other classes.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2000
I very much enjoyed Nancie Atwell's book. Nancy's style of writing allows for easy reading. She presents many useful strategies for teaching reading and writing at the middle school and high school levels (the use of journals to discuss literature). Nancie joins the aspects of reading and writing in the English program to create an almost no-fail system to teaching literature. Great emphasis is placed on the idea that the more students are exposed to reading, writing, and literature, the more appreciative of literature they will become. Students will gain a sort of respect for literature if they are exposed to a steady, constant stream of reading.
One aspect I really did enjoy in Nancy's book were her anecdotes and stories of her own experiences about learning and becoming a teacher. These stories gave a "real flavor" to the book. Nancy's book wasn't about presenting teachers with boring, mechanical information on how to teach reading and writing. Her book presented real strategies for real teachers and real students.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 1999
Nancie Atwell's "In the Middle" is a valuable source of material for setting up reading and writing workshops in the middle school classroom. I teach seventh grade language arts and the reading teacher on my team and I have used many of Atwell's ideas to prepare for the school year. I found it to be very useful and relevant to my teaching.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 1998
Nancie Atwell gives encouragement and ideas to middle school Language Arts teachers, especially those who might be using the whole language approach or those who would like to enliven their current writing and reading classes. Atwell lists ideas for mini-lessons, writing topics, and reading choices. Atwell's pulse on today's youth is accurate, and her thoughts work - and will work if given a chance. I should know. I was very much against whole language a short time ago. Now with Atwell's book as my reference, I can walk into the classroom more confident about writing and reading workshops.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 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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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2000
Nancie Atwell's book has changed the way I teach reading and writing; I'm a more effective teacher thanks to her. I just wish In the Middle were easier to use. None of my colleagues will take the time to read it, because the useful, practical stuff is burried in a huge volume of anecdotes, personal history, et cetera. I would love to see a condensed, "practical" version that was more of a reference book, without all the stories of how Ms. Atwell developed the workshop approach.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2001
Aimee Duncan Miami University Oxford, Ohio
In the Middle. Nancy Atwell. 1998. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc.
Remember middle school? Remember your first crush when
You see him walk past you in the hall your eyes lock. Yours want to stay locked forever-
Or your first dance when
You knew it was right, and you knew much more when it was not- something clicked -
Those days were so real. The crush so significant and the dance so memorable. And then remember when your crush didn't like you back? And the guy you clicked with on the dance floor turned around and danced with your best friend? Remember going home and writing about it in your journal; all those heart-breaking poems and hate letters. Just think about if your teacher allowed you to turn a piece in like that? Minus all of the bad words, that would have been powerful writing -- authentic and full of emotion -- I wish I would have been able to express myself like that in high school. Nancie Atwell in In the Middle knows that surviving adolescence is not easy. She gives teachers advice on how to go about the "real" issues that their students are going through. She gives her students freedom, the freedom to express all of the "thorns." In chapter three the book came alive for me. She talked about how important it was to have a class of reality. Teachers need to know what is going on in the lives of the adolescents. The pain they feel is real, the "thorns" of adolescents cause hurt and teachers cannot overlook that. Atwell claims that it is important for teachers to spend their lives focusing on this "fascinating" and "unpredictable" stage. "It's a stage of change - emotionally, physically, psychologically, and intellectually." (55) Atwell allows her students to write about their lives. She has them construct poems about their basketball heroes, their soccer game, their bedroom, feeling alone, etc. I think this is a wonderful idea. I hated writing about what I would do if I had a time machine or what I would do if I was Huckleberry Finn. I can't write with emotions when I have prompts like that. I need a real-life prompt. I need to write about something I care about, something that evokes emotion. Atwell allows her students to write about those "real" emotions. One of her expectations for writing is to "find topics and purposes for your writing, that matter to you, to your life, to who you are and who you want to be." She wants her students to know who they are. She wants them to discover themselves through their writing. During adolescence I had no idea who I was. I needed to know more about me - my beliefs, who I was becoming, and what I wanted from my life. But instead I was stuck in a traditional classroom, writing five paragraph essays about things irrelevant to my life. As a teacher of beginning writing she had her students focus in on life stories about moments from their lives. Students like to write about their lives, giving them the chance is all they need. Atwell also had her class create memoirs in order for her students to look into their past and "make sense of it." In this assignment her students had a chance to figure out who they were, who they want to become and they put life events into perspective. Atwell believes in the power of poetry. She believes that it gives shape to experiences. It puts things into words that are hard to say; like having your heart broken. Poetry can help one find comfort, it can make one think, laugh and even cry. Atwell encourages her readers to get to know their students. She encourages the reader to learn about the "thorns" of adolescence.
One of the best things middle school teachers can do for our students is acknowledge that the thorns of adolescence are real and cause real pain. I'm not a counselor, but I can affirm that growing up is hard, and I can resolve to make it an exciting, confident, productive time. I begin by looking at my students as teachers who will instruct me about their lives. I'll spend the rest of my years as a middle school teacher learning about the lives of middle school kids. (55)
I believe this. I believe that we can learn from our students. I think that the more "with-it" we are as teachers the smarter we will be and the more respected we will be. Students will find us more convincing and look to us as role models instead of "an older person," - too old to understand adolescence. Atwell gives her students the freedom to choose topics they wish to write about. She believes that this does not take away from structure. I do as well. Students have thousands of ideas and as long as they are writing the teachers should be happy. Yes, there are times for the "traditional" assignments, but plenty of time for students to construct their own ideas. She allows them to choose topics, but she establishes her expectations first. "So I think on paper about what writers and readers do, about who my students are, about what I believe, what I know, and what my priorities should be as a teacher of writing and reading." Atwell encourages her students to try different genres, reminding them to keep each of their pieces. She tells them that sometime during the year create a short story, three to five poems or songs, a book review, a memoir, and a profile of a local citizen based on original research, or op-ed piece or essay about an issue. I think these are wonderful pieces of writing that will allow students to explore their lives and different styles. These genres will keep the student from getting bored of the conventional essays and will better prepare for the world. In the Middle has many other great parts, however the writing part fascinated me the most. She has great ideas about reading as well. All of her ideas revolve around what is best for the student. She is a caring educator. She has made impacts. I hope I will make those impacts as well. All teachers can learn from her examples.
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