Let your students’ imaginations run wild with these otherworldly texts!
Looking to enchant your students with exciting new realities and characters? Take your classroom on a journey to make any dream feel possible with CommonLit’s free digital library. This middle school text list will spark creativity in your ELA curriculum and take your kids on extraordinary adventures.
“‘The Worst Birthday’ from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling (6th Grade)
In this book excerpt, Harry Potter, a young wizard, spends his birthday with his mean, non-magical, extended family. Craving to use his powers and contact his friends, Harry must find ways to keep himself occupied until the school year begins at Hogwarts.
Magic has the power to make kids feel like anything is possible. Pair this whimsical text with Peter Ryan’s Clarity under the Paired Texts tab. Use both stories to engage in a class discussion about each character and the role of magic in each of their lives.
“Dragon, Dragon” by John Gardner (6th Grade)
In this silly short story, a cunning dragon ravages a kingdom with no man in sight to defeat him. Three brothers each venture to slay the beast in hopes of the ultimate prize: marriage to the princess and half the king’s kingdom. It is only the youngest, the weakest, and the least expected of the three men who kills the overly proud creature.
Fiction worlds immerse readers in their own creative imaginations. The lessons from these fantasy stories, however, can still be applied to people’s lives today. Use the “John Gardner: On Moral Fiction” video, under the Related Media tab, as a starting point for students to share their take-aways from the text.
“The Third Wish” by Joan Aiken (6th Grade)
In this heartwarming short story, a man named Mr. Peters rescues the King of the Forest who is disguised as a swan. As a sign of gratitude, the king grants Mr. Peters three wishes which he uses to find love and to reunite a pair of sisters.
Fantasy short stories often include the theme of changing one’s fate. Use Discussion Question 1: “In your opinion, should Mr. Peters have used his last wish? If so, what do you think he should have wished for?” to lead a class conversation about Mr. Peters’s decision to keep the life he had to begin with. Have students share their thoughts on the power of changing their existence in an instant.
“The Griffin and the Minor Canon” by Frank R. Stockton (7th Grade)
In this magical short story, a griffin, the only one of its kind, leaves its home to visit a town where a stone statue of itself is placed. This lion-eagle-mixed creature takes particular liking to the minor canon, a kind churchman, and stays to befriend him. The townspeople react negatively to this budding relationship which angers the powerful beast.
Even in made up worlds, the harm from judgment still impacts others. Strengthen your students’ reading comprehension skills by using the discussion activity to explore how characters treat each other differently as a result of the way they look and act.
“Excerpt from Peter Pan: ‘When Wendy Grew Up’” by J.M. Barrie (7th Grade)
In this novel excerpt, Wendy reflects on her time with Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up, as she gets older and has children of her own. The future generations of Wendy’s family keep the magic alive by flying with Peter Pan to Neverland.
Fantasy stories allow readers to picture themselves in many “what if” scenarios. In this Peter Pan story, students must face the question: What if you stayed young forever? Use Discussion Question 1 for students to reflect on if there are problems with never growing up.
“Mousing Teeth” by Avalon A. Manly (8th Grade)
In this thrilling short story, two cousins go on an expedition to find proof of the infamous Mothman who is rumored to cause disasters. Nova puts her and her cousin, Ros, in a dangerous situation by trying to take photos of the creature to fit in at school.
Fictitious worlds provide readers the space to consider what would happen if urban legends were real. Make your reading curriculum more engaging by incorporating the “True Terror w/ George Takei: ‘The Mothman’ | The Terror: Infamy” video under the Related Media tab to discuss the impacts of local myths on communities.
“Excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Chapter 12” by Lewis Carroll (8th Grade)
In this final chapter excerpt, Alice’s whimsical adventure ends while she is in the middle of testifying in the Queen of Heart’s stolen tart trial. She wakes up from this silly dream and shares her stories with her older sister, who marvels at Alice’s wild imagination of Wonderland.
In this Alice in Wonderland story, readers are engulfed within a world of zany characters and events. However, deeper meaning can be found within Lewis Carroll books. Use Discussion Question 1: “Do you believe this story is nonsense for nonsense’s sake? Explain.” as the foundation for an in-class discussion.
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