Friday, August 22, 2014

GUIDE for Crossover by Kwame Alexander

As we "crossover" from summer to back-to-school, I want to encourage you to put Crossover, a novel in verse by Kwame Alexander on your must-share list for the new school year-- particularly if you work with kids in 4th - 8th grade. It's such a fresh story with twin 12 year old boy protagonists who love playing basketball and are growing up-- and maybe apart-- as they cope with middle school, girls, and the expectations of their parents. The poems are full of energy and propel the story forward energetically. But I especially loved the picture of family life that comes across as each boy is trying to carve out his own identity, their dad (a former pro basketball player himself) is a hilarious character with a big story arc of his own, and their mom is the school's vice principal-- more savvy than they give her credit for. The family dynamics are lively and authentic and the picture of life at school rings true too. I'm calling it part Love That Dog meets The Watsons Go to Birmingham meets Slam. 

Here are just a few nuggets from the Readers' Guide I developed for the book and you'll find the whole guide here


1. As students read or listen to this verse novel, encourage them to visualize each of the main characters and talk about what they look like and how they talk and act. Work together to draw character sketches or find magazine or web-based images that look like these characters:
  • Jordan (JB) Bell
  • Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) Bell
  • Dad: Chuck Bell (“Da Man”), a former professional basketball player
  • Mom: Dr. Crystal Stanley-Bell, the assistant principal at the boys’ school (Reggie Lewis Junior High)
Talk about how the twins are alike and how they are different. For example, Jordan (JB) and Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) are identical twins, but JB shaves his head bald and plays shooting guard and Josh has shoulder length dreadlocks (at first) and plays forward. It is usually Josh’s point of view we see as the story unfolds.


5. Several of the poems in this novel lend themselves to readers theater performance, so that students can get a sense of the characters’ voices. The following poems offer text in two parts: plain text and italicized text for two volunteers or two groups to read aloud in turn.
  1. “Conversation” pp.17-19
  2. “The game is tied” p. 36
  3. “Mom doesn’t like us eating out” pp. 41-42
  4. “The inside of Mom and Dad’s bedroom closet” pp. 44-47
  5. “Dad Takes Us to Krispy Kreme and Tells Us His Favorite Story (Again)” pp. 63-65
  6. “Mom calls me into the kitchen” pp. 96-98
  7.  “Phone Conversation (I Sub for JB)” pp. 106-109
  8. “Suspension” pp. 138-141
  9. “I run into Dad’s room” pp. 165-167
  10. “School’s Out” pp. 188-189
  11. “Santa Claus Stops By” pp. 207-209
  12. “Questions” pp. 210-211
7. The author also introduces crucial vocabulary terms through twelve key poems presented at critical intervals throughout the book.
  • “cross-o-ver” p. 29
  •  “ca-lam-i-ty” p. 38-39
  •  “pa-tel-la ten-di-ni-tis” pp. 48-49
  • “pul-chri-tu-di-nous” p. 55
  • “hy-per-ten-sion” p. 76
  •  “i-ron-ic” p. 104
  • “tip-ping point” pp. 118-119
  • “chur-lish” pp. 142-143
  •  “pro-fuse-ly” p. 154
  • “es-tranged” p. 187
  •  “my-o-car-di-al in-farc-tion” p. 201-202
  • “star-less” p. 229
Talk with students about how the poet uses the usual dictionary format in presenting the vocabulary term: the word is shown in syllables, with a pronunciation guide, the part of speech is indicated, and the poem provides a kind of definition along with examples of the meaning of the word (using the phrase “as in:”). Working together, look up some of these words in a dictionary (or online) and compare your findings with the vocabulary poem. Challenge students to write their own “vocabulary” poems for a new word they encounter in the book using Alexander’s “formula.”

Plus, the Readers Guide pinpoints:
  • poems in rap, 
  • incorporates the power of nicknames, 
  • connects with YouTube videos of sports and music figures in the book, 
  • looks at the role of rules in the novel, 
  • showcases various forms and types of poetry that are included, 
  • and examines the "crossover" themes. 
Check it out here.

There is also an audiobook version of this novel in verse available. It's narrated by Corey Allen and produced by Recorded Books. Here's one more way to get kids into the book-- by listening to a pro read it aloud! It's available on CD or as a download here.

Now head on over to Irene's place, Live Your Poem, for more Poetry Friday nuggets!





9 comments:

Violet N. said...

You make this sound like a must-read. Your exercises suggest great ways to read and pay attention to poems for readers of any age.

LInda Baie said...

Thanks for this, Sylvia. I loved the story and have already passed it on to a teacher of older students at school. I'll certainly share this too. The book certainly is now a favorite verse novel in my growing list!

Irene Latham said...

Poems in rap... oh, I know a few readers who will be all over this. Thank you so much for sharing, Sylvia!

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

Oh what a wonderful resource in this post for teachers, dearest Sylvia. I would have to look for that book. I love novels in verse. :) This one sounds like a must-read.

Mary Lee said...

Love this book, and will use your teaching ideas to help readers who are not used to the verse novel format. Thank you! You are a treasure!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you all for your lovely compliments. I agree that this book is something special and Kwame is a talent to watch. I enjoy creating these guides and hope they help you connect more kids with these great books! Wishing everyone a wonderful new school year!

Linda said...

Sylvia, I can't wait to read this book! Thanks so much for sharing it. I teach middle school reading intervention, and I'm always on the lookout for books that will get my students excited about reading. I appreciate the guide and will be sure to use it!

Bridget Magee said...

Oh, I have this book on my shelf - I MUST read it soon! Thanks for the reminder to get to it. = )

laurasalas said...

I really liked this book, but I was SOOOOO angry with the father...