At the end of each chapter of Teaching from the Middle of the Room, there is a Reflection to encourage further thinking and possible action. Also, there are Points to Pursue that provide specific suggestions and actions. 


We need to become vigilant about the literacy levels of students. We can never assume they know how to read, write, and argue well, at any grade level. While they may appear able to read proficiently, they may be sliding along, concealing that they are less able. Dan Hilliard [who reappears throughout the book] learned recently from a former good student from his first year of teaching that she “really learned to read” from his veteran colleague, Mel Goodwin, in her senior American Studies class.

Because we cannot make assumptions about what skills students possess, we need to provide opportunities for them to demonstrate their proficiencies. We also need to realize that once we’ve introduced a literacy skill, we need to reinforce it throughout the year. In fact, we need to teach traditional literacy and 21st century skills every day. Dan has become aware of this imperative and spends increasing amounts of time putting both sets of skills at the center of his teaching.

Points to Pursue: two examples:

  • As a pre-assessment of reading and writing skills, pass out a short, provocative reading relevant to your subject or grade-level. Ask students to learn it and observe how they approach it. Do they simply read it? Do they use highlighters? Underline? Write in the margin? Ask clarifying questions? From this pre-assessment, you can determine where your students are and what skills you need to teach.
  • If you are expected to use a textbook, particularly in the humanities, make every effort to incorporate additional narrative and interesting material whenever possible, since textbooks can be challenging for most students—and for some teachers. Make sure that questions are central to class discussions, particularly essential questions that provoke and stimulate evidentiary thinking.

Discover other such ideas for teaching literacy in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn that you can purchase from