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Hi! I’m planning a middle grade novel with a school setting. How do you develop a setting that rings true to current middle graders when your not in school anymore? I was thinking of interviewing teachers.  Any suggestions?

Thanks! 
#1 - June 16, 2018, 07:17 AM

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You might even ask if you could sit in the back of a classroom for a period or two, or a day, and just observe.
#2 - June 16, 2018, 08:28 AM

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Teachers are good, but spend lots of time listening to this age group talk and talking to them. If you could sign up to help on campus in some way, you'd have a chance to study them in their natural habitat - so to speak. (grin) Beware of using too much slang, because it changes so quickly and can really date your writing. Good luck and have fun. I love this age group.
#3 - June 16, 2018, 08:29 AM

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You could also simply go someplace where middle schoolers hang out and observe/listen. My daughter just finished middle school, and they hang out at malls. :)
#4 - June 16, 2018, 09:28 AM
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As a former middle school/high school teacher, who now subs, I totally agree with the above suggestions!! Since school is now out in most parts of the country, you could start now with the listening in and - if you need more - follow-up in the fall with the sitting in. (Be aware, many districts will require a background check to be done by the local or state police before you're permitted to spend time within a classroom. You might check into that now, so you don't have to wait to be cleared once school resumes.)

Best wishes, Brenna!!!

#5 - June 16, 2018, 09:45 AM

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Magnet schools often give tours. I went on a tour of an arts magnet to get the feel of setting for my MG.  My son was also in middle-school so I volunteered as much as I could to get myself into classrooms and around the school. If you are not a parent, that will pose a challenge but sometimes it's nice to just 'see' the school itself as far as writing details about it in your story.

As others have said, you'll have to go where the kids are and be around them a bit.


#6 - June 16, 2018, 10:08 AM
ROYALLY ENTITLED (inspirational/historical YA) and OOPS-A-DAISY (humorous MG) out now.  http://www.melodydelgado.com/

Thank you so much, everyone! I’m blown away by your quick responses and great advice.
#7 - June 16, 2018, 12:10 PM

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Just a quick note, middle grade readers aren't in middle school. Middle grade is ages 8-12, so third through sixth grade. After that many are reading YA. There is an older middle grade sub category that ends at about age 14.

Other than that, it can also help to watch and read the media the age group is consuming. This way, you'll know what they're talking about as you listen in.
#8 - June 16, 2018, 09:12 PM
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Yes, good reminder, Deb, as it can get confusing. My son was in sixth grade in middle-school and my MC is a sixth-grader at an arts magnet, so being around sixth-graders, even though they were at a middle school, was helpful in my case.
#9 - June 17, 2018, 08:32 AM
ROYALLY ENTITLED (inspirational/historical YA) and OOPS-A-DAISY (humorous MG) out now.  http://www.melodydelgado.com/

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Most 12 year olds are in 7th grade aren't they?
#10 - June 24, 2018, 03:51 PM

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Most 12 year olds are in 7th grade aren't they?

6th and/or 7th. My son just finished 6th grade and he'll turn 13 halfway through 7th.
#11 - June 24, 2018, 04:01 PM
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Most 12 year olds are in 7th grade aren't they?

Even though this is true, most middle grade readers aren't in middle school. The book has to work for ages 8-12. That's third through seventh grades. And some second graders are reading middle grade books too.
#12 - June 24, 2018, 06:01 PM
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