George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A student I taught 12 years ago (when she was in the sixth grade) emailed me recently sharing that in the fall, she will become a middle school English teacher. "That was the best year of school for me," she said, "I just want to help other kids have an experience like that." I was thrilled; what more could I want?

I responded with a long rambling email about why middle school is the best age and how much I love the social, emotional and academic developmental stage of sixth graders. "One minute they'll engage in a serious debate about politics and you can see their brains stretching and questioning, and then the next minute they revert to being the joyful, sweet, cuddly kids they were in elementary school, curious and fun and affectionate." I told her I loved spending my days with sixth graders, I really did. Seventh grade was good too, but I have to confess that I did not like eighth grade.

As I wrote this email I was inundated by a waves of emotions: nostalgia for the years I taught middle school, regret that I couldn't serve all of my students as I wish I could have, curiosity about where they are now and what their lives are like, and excitement for my former student as she embarks on this new adventure.

"How can I prepare?" She wrote back. "What are the best resources available?"

I have a short list and am hoping that the Edutopia community can add to it.


I probably used Nancie Atwell's In the Middle: New Understandings about Reading, Writing and Learning more than any other.


When I first started teaching, I lived on, which had indispensible resources for teaching grades 4-8. Recently I learned that the site has been reorganized and revived and it looks better than ever with book reviews, interviews, and guest posts.


My favorite bloggers on middle school are:

Heather Wolpert-Gawron who blogs for Edutopia and at about all things middle school including writing, debate, and technology integration.

Ariel Sacks, an eighth grade English teacher in Brooklyn, NY.

Jose Vilson, who is a middle school math teacher and coach in Washington Heights, NY.

I know there are other fantastic resources for middle school teachers so I'm hoping some of you will add your favorites. Happy planning.

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Ariel Sacks's picture

Wow, Elena, that has got to be the most amazing compliment and reward for teaching! What a great story. I probably owe a few of my teachers from way back a similar message. Thank you for the shout out to my blog, and I love the others you mentioned as well! I would add Bill Ferriter to list. He does really exciting things with technology, assessment, and global learning with middle school kids.

John Norton's picture
John Norton
Education writer, Founder & co-editor of

Elena - thanks for the kind words about MiddleWeb, past and present. We have relaunched the site, with a new approach, but we are in the process of capturing some of the best of the "old" content that was helpful to you in your early career. We've also teamed up with the SmartBrief education newsletter team to produce the twice-weekly MiddleWeb SmartBrief, where we're able to share content and advise SB editors on the news best suited to middle grades educators. We are focusing on four big "threads" - our own Resource Roundups (always plenty of Edutopia links there!); guest articles by middle grades teachers and other experts; interviews with such folks; and reviews of professional books pertinent to adolescent education.

I'd join Ariel in giving a big nod to Bill Ferriter and also suggest that your readers follow Marsha Ratzel at Reflections of a Techie:

Finally, I'm privileged to serve as editor/facilitator of the group blog Voices from the Learning Revolution, which emphasizes shifted instruction that addresses the needs of the 21st century student. Very much in sync with Edutopia's values:

Hope this doesn't sound too much like self-promotion to your readers: they can check out the content in all these places and see for themselves whether it's worthy of their attention!

April Tibbles's picture
April Tibbles
Chief Communications Officer at AMLE

Hi Elena,
First, thanks for sharing your story. I love reading your articles. They offer continued affirmation that middle grades educators are some of the most dedicated, passionate educators out there. To be able to understand and engage this age group, you simply have to possess a zealous spirit about what you do.

To add to your web links and blogs, the Association for Middle Level Education, previously National Middle School Association, has more than 5000 articles online on every middle grades topic at All of our research and advocacy content and hundreds of searchable Middle School Journal and Middle Ground articles are available to everyone (members can access all 5,000 pages). Anyone can sign up for our e-newsletter, Middle Level iNSIDER, which is published monthly during the school year:

We also follow some great blogs by middle grades educators. Here are a few:

Bright Futures: A Blog for Middle Level Education, various authors:
Education Rethink, John T. Spencer:
Middle School: Day by day from a teacher's point of view, Cossondra George:
Brent's Blog, Brent Cudly:

Follow us on Twitter @AMLEnews, and like us on Facebook,

Computer Repair Portland's picture

I would like to suggest a few other online resources for children, parents and teachers that I have found helpful when it comes to homework. Not sure if any of you have used them?

#1 The Salman Khan Academy: The most amazing online tutoring website I found in my research is The Kahn Academy. Salman Khan was living in Chicago, remotely tutoring his two cousins in New Orleans. He created web videos to archive his instructions and made them available on Not only did his cousins remark that they learned more from his videos than they did from him directly, other viewers from around the world stumbled upon his videos and began learning as well.Today The Khan Academy has a library of over 2,400 videos on everything from math and science, to astronomy and finance. Videos are less than 15 minutes long, and students progress through question and answer sessions until they master a concept, reviewing material whenever they struggle. The most revolutionary part of these videos is that they give anyone wanting to learn about a topic the ability to learn at their own pace, pause and review material without feeling embarrassed to ask a question they feel like they should already know, or hold up the rest of the class to understand a concept everyone else seems to be following. If you're thinking the price of this service is going to be the catch, think again. It's all free. The Khan University takes online tutoring to a whole new level, this is quite possibly the future of education. (If you try this tutoring website, tell us about it in the comments below)

#2 If you're looking for a more personal experience where you can interact one-on-one with a tutor, check out this website. Here you can find an online tutor 24/7. allows you to get help using a computer or a Smartphone. Chat with your tutor, share screens over the internet and use a two-way interactive white board to review the topics of your choice. Purchase packages of 1 to 3 hours per month for $35 to $100. The best part is, they "guarantee at least a half letter grade improvement or your money back," if you sign up for at least two hours a month. If you or your student learns best through talking it out, this online tutoring website is a sure bet.

The rest of the article can be found here if you are interested

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