New to CommonLit? A long-time user looking to refresh your lesson plans? Use these texts in your middle school classes!
CommonLit is a digital literacy program with over 2,600 lessons for grades 3–12. CommonLit’s library includes high-quality literary and nonfiction texts, digital accessibility tools for students, and data-tracking tools for teachers.
In this post, we are excited to share 15+ of our favorite texts for middle schoolers. To see all of our texts for middle school students visit our full library.
"Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan
In this short story by Amy Tan, the narrator explores her Chinese-American identity through the lens of food and family tradition.
As students read, you could have them take notes on the way the author describes the food her mother and father prepare for their guests.
"Seventh Grade" by Gary Soto
Victor is starting his first day of seventh grade but he has more than classes, homework, and his schedule to worry about — the only thing he can focus on is impressing Teresa.
As students read, you might ask them to take notes on what Victor does to impress Teresa. Then, you could facilitate a discussion on how hard it is to make friends and impress others when you are growing up. Be sure to ask students to relate to the story with a time they might have felt pressure to lie to fit in.
"East 149th Street (Symphony For A Black Girl)" by Teri Ellen Cross Davis
In this poem, Teri Ellen Cross Davis draws on the personal experience of her mother braiding her hair as a child. Ask students to identify the author’s use of imagery to convey strong sentiments of love for her mother — and ultimately strong feelings of love for herself.
You could facilitate a conversation with your class about the value of small expressions of love and how they can help build relationships.
"Malala Yousafzai: A Normal Yet Powerful Girl" by National Public Radio (NPR) Staff
Malala is a Pakistani activist for female education and empowerment. After facing considerable adversity in northwest Pakistan from the Taliban, including an attack where she was critically injured, Malala still continues to advocate for access to education on the international stage.
As students read, ask them to take notes on who supported Malala to overcome adversity.
"In Thailand, 17 Pounds of Plastic Kills Whale, Highlighting Ocean Pollution" by Samantha Raphelson for National Public Radio (NPR)
In this informational text, Samantha Raphelson, an author for the National Public Radio (NPR), examines how plastic waste is affecting ocean life. Raphelson explains how plastic finds its way into the ocean and interviews folks about what to do to address this form of pollution.
"The War of the Wall" by Toni Cade Bambara (7th grade)
In this short story, the narrator and their friends are upset when a stranger comes to paint a mural on a wall in their beloved neighborhood. The kids in the story learn an important lesson about community and how first impressions or assumptions can be dangerous.
You could have your students think of a place in your community that is important to everyone — a park, market, or path along a creek. Now, imagine that a stranger comes to your special place and begins to change it completely. What would you do? Would you feel the same way the kids in the story did?
"Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes (7th Grade)
Langston Hughes (1902–1967) was an American poet, activist, novelist, and playwright. This poem is written from the point of view of a mother speaking to her son about life’s challenges.
You may ask students to think about the meaning of family and how it feels to receive advice or wisdom from an adult. How do you relate to your parents or guardians when they are trying to give you advice?
“Herd Behavior” by CommonLit Staff (7th grade)
Have you ever found yourself blindly following a crowd? Agreeing to something in a group you might not really want to do? In this informational text, the concept of “herd behavior” is explained and explored.
You can have students use the annotation tool to highlight examples of herd behavior in history. Then, you could facilitate a class discussion on the potential costs and benefits of herd behavior in society.
"Who is Katherine Johnson?" by NASA
In this biography, the NASA Science Team tells the story of Katherine Johnson (1918–2020), who was an African American physicist and mathematician who worked at NASA during the early years of the space program. The text describes Katherine Johnson’s early life and her time working on their space missions.
As students read, have them take notes on the challenges and prejudice Johnson faced throughout her career.
“All Summer In a Day” by Ray Bradbury (8th grade)
In this famous short story, Bradbury writes of a group of children on the rainy planet Venus as they prepare for a special event that happens only once every seven years. The children act cruelly to Margot, who is the only one to remember what life was like on Earth, with sunny days and infrequent rain.
As your class reads, you can ask students to discuss what drives the prejudice that the other children have towards Margot. Why do people sometimes feel inferior to others? Why does this drive people to cruelty?
“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl (8th grade)
The narrator in the story, Mary Mahoney, receives some surprising news from her husband as she is preparing dinner. He has betrayed her, but her reaction is more extreme than what you might expect…
As students read, you could ask them to take notes on how Mary’s feelings about her husband change throughout the story.
“Abuelito Who” by Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros is an American writer and key figure in Chicana literature. Her writing frequently draws on her experiences as the only daughter in a family of six brothers, and her family’s constant migration between Mexico and the United States. In this poem, the speaker describes their aging grandfather. As your students read, take notes on how the author uses repetition to emphasize how aging affects their grandfather.
“How Jackie Robinson Changed Baseball” by Jessica McBirney
Jackie Robinson (1919–1972) was a professional baseball player and the first African American to play in the Major Leagues. This informational text discusses Robinson’s life and accomplishments, and the impact his role in baseball had on the Civil Rights Movement. You can engage students by discussing the role of sports and popular culture in activism.
As your students read, ask them to take notes on the different ways that Jackie Robinson fought back against racial discrimination and segregation throughout this life.
"In My Mom’s Shoes" by Kat Chow
In this personal essay, Kat Chow reflects on losing her mother at a young age and inheriting a pair of her shoes years later. Drawing on memories from different times in her life, the Chow shows how grief evolves.
You could discuss with your class the many different ways people respond to grief. What are some ways to cope with grief? You could generate a list of resources with your class for people experiencing feelings of loss and offer ways to support friends through it.
"Hello, My Name is ____" by Jason Kim
Jason Kim is an Asian American screenwriter and playwright. In this memoir, Kim reflects on his experiences moving from his home in South Korea to start a new life in America. This engaging personal essay helps students explore the perspective of someone who feels they need to change themselves and their identity to “fit in”.
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