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A middle school girl presents her science project to the rest of her class

Middle grades-focused classroom activities, student and family engagement guides, presentations, and more

Our collection of middle grades success resources includes guides, research briefs, and professional development activities that are curated or produced by the To&Through Middle Grades Network (MGN). The MGN is a group of schools dedicated to creating more equitable and supportive educational environments where middle grades students can thrive. The network seeks to build the capacity of practitioners to understand the developmental, social-emotional, and non-academic factors critical for student success and to make changes in practice that improve middle grades indicators for success in high school and beyond.

Student Activities

The To&Through Middle Grades Network's student activities allow middle grades students to explore their identity, share their ideas, and reflect on their experiences, while giving educators a glimpse into the lives of their students and how to best support them during this crucial developmental stage. Activities include a pandemic reflection project, "perfect school" project, and belonging map.

Leveraging Student Voice to Promote Stronger Developmental Relationships

This guide curates insights from educators at Florence Nightingale Elementary (Nightingale), who launched a Student Voice Committee (SVC) during the 2020-2021 school year. The guide aims to share what educators at Nightingale learned throughout the process.

Guides to Relationship Drivers

MGN's guides to relationship drivers delve into the importance of building authentic, supportive relationships in schools. The guides provide change ideas to foster positive peer connections, develop educator-student relationships, and strengthen school-family partnerships through an equity lens.

Student & Family Engagement Guides

These MGN guides provide an overview of the critical dimensions of student and family engagement to prepare educators to engage more meaningfully with those they serve. The guides also provide protocols for strategies to gather actionable qualitative data through structured conversations and experiences with students and families. 

Interpreting Qualitative Data for Actionable Insights in Eight Steps

This guide is meant to provide general tips for educators interested in using qualitative data to guide their practice. It is based on the process of two qualitative researchers at the UChicago Consortium.

Middle Grades Team Reads

MGN has curated briefs on the research that every middle grades educator dedicated to student success and equity must read. The collection includes Chicago Public Schools' equity framework, the UChicago Consortium on School Research's "5 Key Findings for Middle Grades," as well as summaries of research on noncognitive factors, the foundations for young adult success, and supporting social, emotional, and academic development.

Student Profiles Activity

MGN's student profiles activity is a personal reflection, group discussion, and debrief protocol intended to help middle grades educators reimagine their daily practices through a student- and equity-focused lens. The student profiles activity helps educators build community and ground their mindsets and strategies in student perspective. This activity is adapted from the San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools and Network for College Success at the University of Chicago.

Resources for Facilitating Professional Development

To incorporate the above resources into structured professional development (PD) sessions, use MGN's kick off presentation and note catcher. These PD resources tie together the student profiles activity, time to collectively set or review norms, key takeaways from middle grades research, and breakout sessions about collecting student and family experience data.

Looking for more? Learn directly from To&Through Middle Grades Network (MGN) leaders about why it is crucial to work towards building strong relationships with middle schoolers. Some schools have implemented talking circles, others distribute getting-to-know-you questionnaires — learn about a new practice that could work best for your students by reading MGN schools’ problem of practice profiles! ​