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In the Middle, Third Edition (Print eBook Bundle)

A Lifetime of Learning About Writing, Reading, and Adolescents

By Nancie Atwell

With 80 percent new material, In the Middle, Third Edition brings Nancie Atwell’s methods up to date. Nancie guides newcomers to a rich, satisfying practice while sharing her latest innovations and refinements with those who have made In the Middle their teaching touchstone.

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For all things In The Middle—including chapter-by-chapter sneak previews, blog posts from Nancie, videos of Nancie, and more —visit

“The third edition of In the Middle is my invitation to English teachers, both veterans and novices, to understand writing and reading from the inside and recognize our potential to influence our students’ literacy for a lifetime. Like the two that preceded it, this edition represents my current best set of blueprints for how I build and maintain a writing-reading workshop—the expectations, demonstrations, models, choices, resources, rules and rituals, pieces of advice, words of caution, and ways of thinking, planning, looking, and talking that make it possible for every student to read with understanding and pleasure and aspire to and produce effective writing.”

—Nancie Atwell

With 80 percent new material, In the Middle, Third Edition brings Nancie Atwell’s methods up to date. Nancie guides newcomers to a rich, satisfying practice while sharing her latest innovations and refinements with those who have made In the Middle their teaching touchstone.

Grounded in her classroom practice and in response to questions and requests from twenty years of professional development workshops, Nancie provides:

  • detailed procedures for organizing the classroom for workshop teaching and a first-week launch sequence
  • hundreds of minilessons and reproducibles that make workshop teaching inviting and doable
  • hundreds of new pieces of student writing to use as mentor texts—many are national prize winners
  • new, detailed genre studies of poetry, memoirs, reviews, essays, reportage, humor and homage, and short fiction
  • a new look at writing conferences, including red flags to notice and strategies for responding to them
  • techniques for conferring with individuals about the books they're reading
  • a revamping of her widely-adopted literary letters as letter-essays that more than satisfy today’s standards for critical reading

This is the chronicle of Nancie Atwell’s courageous, compelling journey. Just as the second edition documented her evolution from 1987, this book shows how she continues to shape and refine her teaching, based on her perceptions of what students need and her growing knowledge of literature and the craft of writing. As Nancie describes it, “The third edition of In the Middle is everything I’ve learned over the past three decades that makes writing-reading workshop the only logical way to teach English.”

(click any section below to continue reading)

What Will I Find New to the Third Edition?

In the Middle: What is the 80% new material? Those who have relied on the second edition of In the Middle, have asked us whether they really need to get the third edition. So we asked one of our crackerjack editors to read the second and third editions and report on the new content so that we could share it with you. Her report: fans of the second edition will be missing out if they don’t read the new edition.

Here is our editor’s full report:

Nancie remains true to her ideals and the workshop approach. Readers of the second edition of In the Middle will recognize the basic workshop elements and find Nancie Atwell's respect for teaching middle schoolers undimmed. Additional years of experience have yielded her new insights into students’ writing and reading and produced improvements in how best to develop middle school learners.

PART I, Workshop Essentials

  • More how-tos: e.g. dialogue to model check-ins that are brisk and brief, topics to teach in memoir, details on how to fit writing-reading workshop into 85-minute blocks or 50-minute periods, minilessons on teaching free-verse poetry
  • The Daily Poem and Icebreaking: In the "Getting Started" chapter these are now specifically named and described in depth. In the second edition, these workshop routines received limited description. Now Nancie’s Daily Poem routine and early-year Icebreaking is given much more depth.
  • More about reading workshop: Nancie gives reading workshop more importance in the third edition.
  • She has shifted her emphasis from how she developed reading workshop to the specifics of running the workshop and its benefits for students
  • Expectations for reading workshop are detailed, including using critical vocabulary, keeping a "someday" list in writing-reading handbook, and writing a letter essay every three weeks
  • Red flags of writing: The chapter "Responding to Writers and Writing" has been almost completely revised and now features twelve new "red flags" of writing culled from Nancie’s many years of reading student writing. Each red flag is named and suggestions are given for conferring with writers to head them in a better direction
  • Letter-essays: Nancie has replaced her well-known weekly letters in the "Responding to Readers and Reading" chapter with letter-essays that students write every three weeks. She shows how these letteressays, which are about books a reader has finished, reflect her evolving thinking about providing a bridge to expository writing while also easing the paper load.
  • Handover: This concept has been has been expanded beyond writing to encompass reading workshop and to prepare students to write their letter-essays.
  • Off-the-page writing: A new concept introduced in the third edition is a way of inserting time and reflection into writing.

Part II, Genre Studies

  • New emphasis and minilessons on poetry: Vastly revamped because of its increasing importance to her teaching, the "Poetry" chapter details why it is the first genre Nancie’s students write in and why it is the basis for many of the craft writing lessons. Free-verse is the "workhorse form of poetry," and there are eight minilessons that teach free-verse poetry and its conventions
  • More specificity about memoirs: Expanded with more specific and intentional teaching recommendations, "Memoir" now integrates reading and listening to memoirs as models for writing them. In the second edition, there are only lists of memoir titles. The third edition also provides more specific elements of memoir to teach: leads, sensory details, dialogue, balancing elements, time transition, conclusions, and reading as a critic
  • Micro fiction: Another major innovation is micro fiction replacing the short story in Nancie’s "Short Fiction" chapter. Much of students’ short story writing was "unmemorable and formulaic" or "heavyhanded and predictable." Short-short fiction helps concentrate the lessons of fiction and "is the genre to hand over to middle school writers of fiction."
  • New details on expository writing: "Taking Care of Business" narrows the focus to four of the types of expository writing found in the second edition, but each one is now presented with more specifics, structure, and examples in its own section
  • "Humor and Homage": A brand new chapter to the book that supports not only writing but also close reading and the writer’s craft: "Parody and homage stretch students not just as writers but as readers and critics, too. To lampoon someone else’s writing requires close reading, attention to detail and tone, and understanding of theme. It may well be the ultimate form of literary analysis."
  • New student writing samples: All new samples reflect more recent books and topics

Nancie has essentially given us a new book because her teaching continues to change, and because she seeks innovation each day. If you’ve read the previous edition, don’t miss out on her latest practices.



Part I: Workshop Essentials
1. Learning How to Teach English
        My Teaching Story
        Finding a Balance
        What About Reading?
2. Getting Ready
        Making Time
        The Room
        Folders and Forms
3. Getting Started
        The Daily Poem
        The Launch: Writing Workshop
        The Launch: Reading Workshop
4. Essential Lessons for Writers
5. Essential Lessons for Readers
6. Responding to Writers
        Writing Conference Guidelines
        Red Flags and Responses
7. Responding to Readers and Reading
        Reading Check-Ins
        Letter-Essays About Literature
8. Valuing and Evaluating
        Teacher Assessment
Part II: Genre Studies
A Word About Genres
9. Poetry
        Free Verse: Build a Toolbox
        Ideas That Matter
        Some Forms
10. Memoirs
11. Short Fiction
12. Taking Care of Business
        Advocacy Journalism
13. Humor and Homage


A. Quotations to Inspire Writers, Readers, and Their Teachers
B. Student Writing Record
C. Student Reading Record
D. Individual Proofreading List
E. Editing Checksheet
F. Peer Writing Conference Record
G. Spelling Study Form
H. Thesauri for Writers Who Walk and Look Too Much
I. Editing Symbols
J. Ways Student Writers Can Go Public
K. Nancie's Workshop Cycle
L. Substitute Plans for Writing-Reading Workshop


Companion Resources


"This classic has been reworked with over 80% new material, but one thing remains unchanged: Nancie Atwell has created a masterpiece that walks readers through the intricacies of successfully teaching middle schoolers about reading and writing."
—Jenni Miller, middleweb