Tag Archives: Middle Grade

Cut to the Chase – Resources for Middle Grade Teachers (wIthout a lot of fuss)

Sometimes, as a teacher, you need resources right away – time is short and the need is huge to help a student find exactly what they need to practice a skill, or maybe you’re looking for one more idea to spark the discussion in class. I spent 15 years as an elementary educator, not as a classroom teacher, but as resource specialist, paraeducator and librarian. My job was always helping classroom teachers to do their jobs better. I think it will always be my job!

I’ve been working on a project for the past several months with other middle grade authors – including fellow MUF Julie Artz!- meant to help teachers and their students find what they’re looking for without having to search too much.

More about our project in a bit, but what I really wanted to do is touch on some great resources for all the core areas of a Middle Grade teacher’s curriculum needs. I’ve collected a few links that might be useful for you. Once a librarian, always a librarian, you know…


I really appreciate Learn Zillion’s page, which shows at a glance the math skills expected for each grade. I would then be able to apply the resources I found at K-5MathTeach to those skills right away, without hunting through several webpages.


When looking for great science resources, I always start at the NSTA website, at nsta.org. But how to wade through everything on offer?

Start at their Freebies page and search using their Books and Resources “Freebies for Teachers” search engine. [crop and insert screen shot] You can also click the link to their other free resources on the same page.

National Education Association also has a good website for STEM resources, with this list including both curriculum resources and professional development opportunities.


The J. Paul Getty Museum has a great page called ArtEdsNet, full of resources for the classroom, and there I found links to curriculum on all kinds of topics. A peek at one or two confirmed that there is not only online content you can use, but downloads with teacher and student content for the classroom. I wish there were time to follow every lead to explore more fun learning!

I wanted to make sure to provide resources that are available for teachers to use even without student access to computers, and though not all of the activities here: http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia/Search/Art and Design are printable, some, such as the buffalo hide project, are.

Humanities/Social Studies

The National Council for the Social Studies also has a site which allows you to search for resources by topic and grade level. 

And now, a shameless plug! Gather Here: History for Young People is the site Julie Artz and other middle grade authors are building with me. Though our main focus is on Washington State history for the middle grades, the Resources page contains links to general topics on history and culture as well. As with the others listed above, we wanted to be sure that there is content for teachers to use even without Internet access for students. With that aim, many of the blog articles will soon be available in pdf form, too.

What types of resources do you love to use in the classroom? What are you having trouble finding? Let us know in the comments. I’d love to provide more posts that point you to resources you can use.

It’s No Mystery. The Winner is….

Last Friday’s post about Middle-Grade Biographies included a GIVEAWAY of the newly-released Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist by Julie K. Rubini.  Nineteen people commented by the deadline, so tonight, nineteen sticky notes went up on the goat gate. Because that’s how every giveaway works, right?

Giveaway 1

Picking the goat who would pick the winner was the hardest part! They all wanted to be part of the action.

Giveaway 2

I chose Kristoff because he’s the youngest. And he loves to read mysteries.

Giveaway 3

After tasting a few, Kristoff took this name off the gate and proceeded to chew.

giveaway 4

My daughter had homework up to her ears, so I was left to attempt this all by my selfie.


Next time, maybe I’ll choose a barn animal who will sit still for photographs.

But, for now, Kristoff and I are happy to announce that the WINNER of a *signed* copy of Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist by Julie K. Rubini is…

giveaway 5

Congratulations, Dee!

On the Eve of Escape

Here at The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, we have scheduling fairies who put names on a magical calendar so that we all know who is posting and when. And, weeks ago, when I saw the date I would next post, I immediately thought, “Oh! That’s the day before I escape to…”

maine beach web small

Every year, this land-locked Ohio farm girl spends a week in a cottage on the  Maine shore with nine writing friends. It is often the most inspiring and productive week of my writing year. I can smell the ocean air already!

I began to wonder how other middle-grade authors escape the daily grind. Where do they go to think more clearly? Breathe more deeply?

And, so, I just asked.

Some of you might follow author Cynthia Lord on Facebook. If you don’t, you probably should click on her name and do that now, because she posts thoughtfully and with her heart, and you’ll love following her. And if you already do, you know that she has this great little escape in her own backyard.

cynthia lord's writing shed

Cynthia told me that she got her writing shed (aptly dubbed “Walden Backyard”) after RULES won a Newbery Honor and she and her husband were a bit cramped sharing an office in their house. Cynthia’s escape is close to home, and she loves writing in her multi-season shed. (We would say all-season, but she does live in Maine, and I’ve seen pictures in which the snow was piled nearly as high as the shed!)

lisa yee   Author of WARP SPEED and THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL, Lisa Yee was caught in mid-escape when I contacted her. She wrote back:

“Ha! As I reply to your question, I am sitting in a hotel room where I’ve escaped to get writing done.”

Enough said, Lisa! Now, get back to work and don’t let me get in the way of progress!

I was surprised how many authors escape to water.  Kirby kirby LARSONLarson, author of HATTIE BIG SKY and the new DASH and DUKE, escapes ocean-side to be with the eagles and hummingbirds. It’s interesting that negative ocean ions can positively affect one’s blood pressure!  Thanks, Kirby!

tricia springstubbMixed-Up Files Author Tricia Springstubb echoed the water theme as well. Her newest middle-grade novel MOONPENNY ISLAND is set on a fictitious island. It’s no small coincidence that Moonpenny Island mirrors Kelley’s Island and Tricia’s favorite rocky and remote get-away.  Tricia finds water so motivating, she often swims to clear her head and has solved more than one plot dilemma after coming out of the pool!

Some writers, though they enjoy a good vacation, have found a more accessible escape. Margaret Peterson Haddix (the MISSING series and the SHADOW CHILDREN series) and Marlane Kennedy (THE DOG DAYS OF CHARLOTTE HAYES and the DISASTER STRIKES series) both agreed that when they are caught up in a good writing moment, their best escape is the story itself. Marlane shares, “When I am deep within  a story, I am not even aware of my surroundings. I am transported to wherever and whatever is happening in my story, and my writing escape is more within my mind than anywhere else.”  (Margaret’s escape mode, however, is not entirely waterless. Like Tricia,  she’s another swimmer/thinker!)

Peterson and KennedyMargaret Peterson Haddix and Marlane Kennedy

Lots more  Mixed-Up Files Authors weighted in as well! You can see their pictures and read about their books here But first, take a moment to read about their escapes:

Jacqueline Jaeger HoutmanCoffee shop. Earbuds. Vivaldi.

Michele Weber HurwitzI’m a big walker. Nothing like a long walk to clear my head and work through trouble spots in a WIP.

Greg R. Fishbone – Long train rides are great for writing.

Amie Borst – When my office won’t suffice, I love to sit on my back deck or by the lake. (There’s that water thing again!)

Valerie Stein – On the sailboat! Calm, quiet motion at the dock, free of distractions. (And again!)

Rosanne Parry – Love writing in my treehouse in the summer. Fresh air, lots of birds & squirrels for company and no distractions. Bliss!

Okay, I admit it. I just couldn’t leave Rosanne’s comment without hoping on over to her website to see if, just maybe, she had a picture of said treehouse. And, bingo! Here it is.

rosanne tree house

So, we would love to hear about your writing escape. Comment below and let us know where you go! I’ll try to respond, but remember, in less than 24 hours, I’ll be escaping to…

maine porch web small

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. She loves mail (the real, slow, stamped-envelope kind) so she created the 52 Letters in a Year Challenge to encourage writers young and not very young to help revive the art of letter-writing. Visit Michelle at www.michellehouts.com. On Twitter @mhoutswrites and on Facebook as Michelle Houts.