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RUNNING HEAD: IN THE MIDDLE NEW UNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT 1

WRITING, READING, AND LEARNING BY NANCIE ATWELL BOOK REVIEW

Book Review

Jennifer Elmasry

Molloy College

Education 365

Professor Sills
IN THE MIDDLE NEW UNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT WRITING, READING, 2
AND LEARNING BY NANCIE ATWELL BOOK REVIEW

Summary

Nancie Atwell has been a teacher for many years and like all of us she started as a

beginner in education. Thought this book she talks about her trials and tributes to education.

Each year she learns something new about teaching and how her students learn best. Nancie also

describes her workshops and how she teaches reading, and writing. She calls herself the

“creator” and she evolves through teaching. “The curriculum unfolds as my kids and I learn

together and as I teach them what I see they need to lean next” (Atwell, 1998, pp. 3). Nancie

Atwell refers to her students as research and her research is finding out if her methods are

working. She always asks her students for feedback during and after the writing workshops.

This insures that they are affective and the students are learning in a good environment.

During Nancie’s early years of teaching she took a job at Earnest and it was a writing

workshop class. The interesting thing about this class is she allowed free writing. Free writing

compared to all the other topics she had given. This was a great idea. It had the students write

about any topic that they wanted. “Ted wrote an angry essay about the effects of time on his life,

Kim wrote a loving essay about the effects of her mother on her life, and Joey wrote an essay

about himself as a writer” (Atwell, 1998, pp. 14). When she used this tactic in her classroom it

motivated the students to write, and use the available resources to improve their skills. This was

a start of a new revolution for Nancie..

The writer also describes herself as capitol T for teacher. She compares herself to having

minilessons that are used to teach her students about reading and writing. She will be their
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mentor and help them succeed. She lists a bunch of do’s and don’ts that we as teachers should do

or not do to improve writing skills in students. Nancie also points out that she now understands

writing, teaching writing, and how important it is to organize a writing workshop. It is important

to read, write and know your student’s strengths and weaknesses so you can help them.

Nancie Atwell also talks about the importance of reading in the classroom. Not only are

you an educator but you are always teaching your students how to read. By establishing reading

workshops. She suggests giving the student the right to choose their own book as long as it is at

their level. “If we want our students to grow to appreciate literature we need to give them a say

in decisions about the literature they will read” (Atwell, 1998, pp. 36). By doing this the

students are able to develop their own theory about the book they have chosen to read. Over time

Nancie started to notice an increase of vocabulary, comprehension, and faster readers. This

overall was a success.

The author also talks about commonly misspelled homonyms that students often use and

can lead to a spelling error. For instance, a homonyms are words that sound exactly alike but

mean different things. They are also spelled differently. An example of a homonym is their (it

belongs to them) and there (In that place). Nancy says that teachers should give minilessons

consisting of fill in the blanks with homonyms. This will help the students engage in the lesson

and correct the grammatical errors.

Thought the book Nancie goes through different grade levels and shows us that

workshops are necessary at any age group. Each age and grade being independent of one
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another. For instance, she talks about the middle school students compared to high school

students. The middle school kids are unpredictable, and also fascinating at the same time. They

are experiencing emotional changes, psychological changes, and intellectual. The middle school

kids can move back and fourth from naive to world-weariness. They can be both self confident at

one point and have no self confidence at another point. The big kids on the other hand want the

real thing. They want to study algebra, history, science, chemistry and poetry.

Lastly she talks about finding poetry everywhere. Poetry being one of the written

languages that can be very difficult. It can be difficult for teachers and students. Many teachers

fear teaching poetry and avoid it at all costs. “They perceived poetry as difficult to read, difficult

to understand, and, especially, difficult to talk about (Atwell, 1998, pp 416). Many students take

to poetry and realize that it does not have to rhyme. The poems helped the students to write

poetry after they started to read it. Each year the students got better and better at writing poetry.

They were able to pick out poetry that was at their level and compare it to their lives.

In conclusion Nancie Atwell started teaching in 1975 at the junior high English

department at Boothbay Harbor. She talks about her trials and errors of teaching reading, writing,

and learning at all different levels of education. With the help of her students, fellow collogues

and friends. She was able to put all her efforts and research into this guide to help other fellow

teachers to make a difference in the world. Nancy has written many other books that can help

you as a teacher with reading, writing, and other techniques. Her success and attributes are

noticed all over the world.


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After reading this book I am happy to say that I can see how this author won the Global

teacher prize. She not only has a tremendous amount of experience but she offers great approaches

to teaching reading, and writing. I can definitely see myself using many of her approaches that she

has written in her book to help my students succeed. For example, Nancie Atwell gives her middle

school students an editing check list. She has the students paper clip it to the top of the paper and

the student have to check off each box. that the proper editing was done. After the student has

completed the writing task they will hand in both papers the report and the checklist. Nancy then

does a double check and writes notes to the student on the editing check list. The student is now

aware of any unforeseen editing that may not have taken place.

This method would not work very well with grades kindergarten through fifth. They are

still learning about punctuation, and what makes a sentence. In this case I would have to start out

very slow and make sure my students understand what kinds of sentences make sense. I would

also have to explain that writing is different then the way you speak to one another. You must think

about the sentence and say to yourself does this make sense? Write the sentence down and read it

back to yourself. That will help you become a better writer.

But overall the book had many great points and ways that I can teach my class. She also

talks about herself and her classroom being the scaffold for the children. Meaning that she is their

support system. If anything that I took away from this book would be to be organized in your

classroom. If you are an unorganized teacher the kids are going to see it and feel it. A good teacher

is knowledge based, knows her stuff, knows the disciplines, and theories of teaching. Its also to
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structure my teaching to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of my students in my classroom.

That’s how I am going to help them succeed.

Nancie Atwell has become an inspiration for teachers and students. Her methods have been

proven. She encourages her students to have workshop time, and read independent books in the

classroom. There is no down time students must read when assignments are finished, during a

break, and when the someone comes to visit with the teacher. Nancy has been using many of these

techniques for many years. She is no longer a teacher but she does go around to schools

encouraging reading, and writing. Nancy has done many interviews about her book and how she

has become the teacher she is today.


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Works Cited

Atwell, N. (2000). In the middle new understandings about writing, reading, and learning.

Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.