The autumn atmosphere can be inspirational, and you might use that vibe to incorporate some middle grade fall-themed celebratory reflection, writing, and reading in your classroom or library.
As a society, haven’t we all fallen hard for fall in recent years? Perhaps our interest in autumn emanates not just from sweater weather, football games, and fall food favorites, but from the amazing array of emotions that comes with fall. It’s a strangely paradoxical season when you think about it: summer ending, school beginning; energetic colors that burn fiercely before a quick fade; the beginning of the end of another year.
No matter the weather, temperatures, or number of pumpkins in fields near to you, fall in our hemisphere signifies the passage of time; so all those autumn connotations can hold plenty of meaning. No wonder we all want to stroll through leaves and reflect with our you-know-what-spice latte in hand. Thankfully, autumn gives us the ways and means to mindfully reflect on seasons and transitions. For example, we might have a little more home-time with longer stretches of dark. Families settle more deeply into the routine of the school year. And a chill in the air helps along a more meditative feel as we cozy up in hoodies and fleece.
Middle graders are at an excellent age developmentally to take on some of that mindful reflection. They still have a festive appreciation for changing leaves and upcoming holidays, but they are also developing daily their sense of how time passes (as evidenced in their connection to school planners and bell schedules).
For all those reasons, the atmosphere associated with autumn can be inspirational, and you might use that vibe to incorporate some middle grade fall-themed celebratory reflection, writing, and reading in your ELA or homeschool classroom or in your library.
- If permitted to so in your educational setting, students might benefit from experiencing a guided walk outside looking for evidence of the change of seasons.
- If not, consider video and audio that encapsulates images of seasonal change pertinent to your region—or explore what fall means in other places.
- If your setting permits independent reading or research into themed topics, consider investigation into the historical importance of the harvest to community and society, the cultural history of Halloween, the notion of “playing” with time in the interest of more daylight, and why pumpkins hold the cultural significance the do. Here are some reads for student interest:
An article with explanations and examples of hygge ; ideas and images for fall based on hygge
Cool facts about and images of pumpkins
A discussion on why we “fall” back and reset clocks in November
An article on the origins and history of Halloween
Sensory imagery writing is a natural choice for fall; weather, clothing, meals, the look of the light and landscape all set the senses astir. Take students through some imagination activities or pose leading questions about the feel of cold air in the nose, the sound of geese flying south, the surprising heaviness of a jacket after warm days turn chilly. Put imagination generation to work with prompts, discussion, story starters or setting descriptions.
Some autumn-themed quotes for prompts or reflection:
- “Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.” – Hal Borland (American writer, journalist, and naturalist)
- “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
- “No spring nor summer hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” – John Donne, English poet and scholar
- “Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” – Emily Bronte, English novelist
- “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
- “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” – Stanley Horowitz
Cozy up with some sustained silent reading (or individual listening via audio device) afternoons over the next several weeks in your classroom or library. If permitted in your setting, consider allowing students to bring blankets, warm cocoa, apples or other autumn snacks, or other small comfort factors to enhance the hibernation vibe (without the actual hibernating, of course!) Relaxing with a great book might benefit MG readers ready to experience all the fall feels.
Here’s a varied mix to make the most of fall—some set in autumn, some that feature the passing of symbolic seasons of life, some with reflection and gratitude themes:
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner – Gianna’s chances of attending a cross-country tournament depend on her successful completion of a science project requiring the collection of 25 fall leaves.
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein – Introverted 7th grader Will Levine is inspired by RJ, a boy with a terminal disease whom Will meets during his bar mitzvah service project, and takes up RJ’s “bucket list” of adventures.
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper – In the autumn season of her 11th year, Stella Mills confronts racism while navigating the challenges of school, family life, and friendship.
Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby – Sixth grader Fig contends with her father’s mental health challenges during hurricane season in their beach town. (Scholastic notes this book as having mature content.)
October October by Katya Balen – Autumn imagery abounds in this novel featuring 11-year-old October, a girl raised in the woods by her father but compelled to join her mother in busy London after a fateful accident.
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor – Mason Buttle lost his mom, his grandfather, and his family orchard–along with his best friend Benny. When his current best bud Calvin goes missing, Mason faces loss, harassment from local bullies, and other challenges with pluck and gumption.
Alone by Megan E. Freeman – Twelve-year-old Maddie wakes to discover that her Colorado town is inexplicably abandoned. She must keep her wits and find the courage to survive as the months pass.
Enjoy, and please share your cozy, contemplative MG reads in the comments!