9 Middle School Novels for Cross-Curricular Lessons

I don’t know about you, but in the second school I taught at, my administrators were huge advocates for creating cross-curricular lesson plans. This was a brilliant idea to me, why not work together to create a unit in which the scholars can interact across all of their classes? It was such a positive way to show students that their subjects are inter-related.

We had a successful unit regarding biographies in which science, math, social studies, and ELA were able to work hand-in-hand to make the material relevant to the students. It was one of the best buy-ins I have seen and the engagement was phenomenal.

Needless to say, I am a big proponant of working together to create units that work cross-curricularly.

I have put together a list of novels that can easily be read in the ELA classroom and used in other subject areas to teach alongside of the standards.


I think math is the one subject that everyone draws a complete blank on how to integrate reading literacy into the classroom. Here are three books I recommend that are easily accessible to the math classroom.

1. Secrets, Lies, & Algebra

Tess, the main character loves math, until she meets algebra. When the variables are introduced they seem to take over her life, and she quickly finds out that she can’t control them in life or class.

This is a great option because it also touches on real 8th grade emotions and feelings while conquering the subject of Algebra.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

This is just a great novel all around and my students can’t seem to put it down. The main character is autistic, so he has a very specific way of looking at the world. There are patterns and all sorts of number variations that are perfect for the math classroom. Also, another blogger, Joel Bezaire, has created a curriculum for this book to be used specifically in the math classroom. You should definitely check it out!

3. Lawn Boy

Gary Paulson is already one of my favorite authors for his novel Hachet.

Lawn Boy is about a 12 year old who starts his own lawn mowing business. In a comedic way the story goes into detail about money management, capitalism, and host of other mathmatical components relating to money.

What a fun way to teach financial responsibility.


Honestly, there are so many great novels that touch on many scientific subjects. These are just the tip of the iceberg…

4. George’s Secret Key to the Universe

Who doesn’t love Stephen Hawking? A brilliant man who has overcome so many physical barriers to continue his scientific research.

His novel, great for astrology units, takes the reader on an adventure through the cosmos breaking down complex ideas for middle schoolers.

5. Hoot

One of my favorite novels for young readers detailing the rescue and protection of some baby owls. Maybe it is because I was an animal lover myself as a middle schooler, but this book hits in the heart every time.

It is a fun read that is great for ecology and zoology units in the science classroom; as well as, a conversation about conservation.

6. Ship Breaker

I have had more students beg to read this book in the past two years than any other book I have put on my shelf. It is an engaging adventure set in a futuristic world where oil is an expensive and dwindling commodity.

This would be a great integration for units on conservation and global warming.

Social Studies

Historical fiction is easiest in which to find relevant novels for the classroom. So, I picked a few that are a little less known or likely to be used as a class novel.

7. Return to Sender

This is a beautifully written book by Julia Alvarez that speaks on the topic of immigration. It follows the friendship of Mari [a Mexican immigrant] and Tyler the boy on who’s farm her family works.

This would be a great novel to use in the ELA and Social Studies classroom. [I know because I used it in my second year of teaching with our social studies teacher.]

8. The Cage

This novel is off the beaten track. As far as Holocaust-related novels, there are much more popular titles such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Yet, I would recommend this book above all of the others. It is based on the true account of the author and her family during the Holocaust. It is beautifully poignant but accessible novel for middle-grade readers.

9. Chains

It’s hard to make a book list without including Laurie Halse Anderson. She is my favorite author. [Period] Now that I got that out of the way, Chains is an incredible novel about a young slave girl.

It is actually a three-part series, but the first book works as a stand-alone alongside a social studies curriculum. [Also, what a fantastic way to get students into a series so that they want to read the other two on their own!]


Novels, novels, novels! Finding ways to engage our students in reading is becoming increasingly more difficult as technology takes over. That being said, showing students how novels can interact across subjects is one way to lesson that burden.

Now, go teach!

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