Middle School unit study (for boys!)


I teach middle school Lang Arts and will probably also be teachnig an elective this fall. The topic is up to me.

The class will be 7th and 8th grade boys. For the most part, these guys have short attention spans, play video games and don’t really like to read. What they do read is sci fi; they love alien battles :p.

I want to raise the bar and challenge them, but still do something they would find interesting and enjoy. Last year when we read In Freedom’s Cause, I had them do presentations on medieval weapons and most of them did a really good job.

So . . . my first thought was something war related - WWII battles, warfare, battles in the Pacific etc. I want to incorporate composition, public speaking, Geography, map skills, research etc. (gosh, I’m getting really excited thinking about this!!)

Anyhow, does anyone have suggestions for other units boys would like or good things to include related to war, warfare etc?

TIA :thumbsup:


Perhaps you could look into a study of Alexander the Great? He was both a great warrior and a major influence on the worlds culture from Egypt to India. Finding information about some of the battle sites would require geography and map skills. Part of the culture of Greece at the time dealt quite a bit with public speaking (though Alexander didn’t) so there are more areas of research and both composition and public speaking. It would also allow you to introduce an area of the world not often studied that much. Persian history and culture, the start of the Ptolomeic dynasties of Egypt, the library at Alexandria, and much more!



How long is your unit? Are you talking about reading another book and doing an activity around it?

How about *Carry On, Mr Bowditch *and then they could research different navigational methods or compare sailing ships to modern boats.

*The Three Musketeers *or Ivanhoe could be fun too with perhaps research into secret police, FBI, or body guards.

If you want something more recent, how about CodeTalker or Lord of the Nutcracker Men?

Bruchac, Joseph. CODE TALKERS: A NOVEL ABOUT THE NAVAJO MARINES OF WORLD WAR TWO. After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay is recruited by the Marines to become a Code Talker, sending urgent messages during WWII in his native tongue.

Lawrence, Iain. LORD OF THE NUTCRACKER MEN. An English boy during WW I comes to believe that the battles he enacts with his toy soldiers control the war his father is fighting on the front.


I’m not sure if it would fit in exactly with the sort of unit you have in mind, but Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers might be a really interesting book to look at. It has some violence, but nothing hideously detailed, and no sex. What it does have is a lot of sci-fi military action that will catch their attention, and then some fascinating political commentary.

It would open them up to some great discussion regarding rights versus responsibilities, the nature of government and democracy, all sorts of good things. Read the wiki article on the book, it gives an overview of some of the ideas and topics discussed. It is reasonably controversial to some people apparently, because of its political positions, but as I said, I think it would make for some great discussion.


Total Language Plus offers unit studies already designed. site.totallanguageplus.com/the-program/novel-groupings/

My son enjoyed doing their unit study on Johnny Tremain at that age.


I used a few of their units when I homeschooled; I’d forgotten all about them! Thanks for reminding me :thumbsup:.

I did not plan to include a novel in the unit, as the 7th and 8th grade boys (not big readers to begin with) already have to read alot for my LA class.


My son likes survival stories. He loved Hatchet and Swiss family Robinson. I think he likes the resourcefulness of the heroes in the stories.

The boys could be given situations, then have to devise a survival plan. They’d have to research conditions and see what they have available. Then, they could develop a presentation and portfolio with pictures of things they could make.

You could bring in various food–would they eat bugs or dandelions roots? Also, you could have various speakers.

I think it would take some research to put together, though. Maybe too teacher time intensive?


I’m up way too late, surfing CAF instead of preparing my lessons for my students on Monday :blush:. So please forgive me if I’m missing the point.

Anyway, if you are teaching in a Catholic school, you could include some research, etc. on the Crusades, the search for the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar, and the like. Because of that work of fiction, Da Vinci code, our young people will be exposed to all sorts of lies about the history of the Church (and everyone else), and this sort of research could give them a strong foundation on which to stand as they get older and people try to knock them away from their faith.

If you teach in a public school, you probably wouldn’t be able to do that same unit. :shrug:

Best of luck! I love getting excited about the beginning of the school year and all the possibilities.



I have great admiration for teachers - they’re underappreciated and very important in our children’s lives.
My son hates to read, but he will read graphic novels. You might consider some historical graphic novels, such as Maus, the story of a survivor. It’s a novel in comic book form about WW 2, which depicts the Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Said to be very powerful. There are other similar works. Have a great year!

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