Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Crossover

Let's all just pretend that I've been updating my blog regularly and it hasn't been sitting, getting dusty in some corner of the Internet, okay? :-)

An apology: new evaluation system in NYC nonsense/first grader involved in too many activities/dissertation length lesson plans/marathon training/death of my doggie/adoption of a puppy/maintaining a marriage = something had to give.  And now that it's summer I hope I'll be able to blog more regularly (although my soon-to-be second grader is still involved in too many activities!).

I did, however, have time to read the best book I've read in years.  The Crossover by Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Award this year and it is fabulous.  The book is written in free verse and in the vernacular of today's kids.  When I read the book aloud to my class at the end of the year, one of my students kept remarking that she could tell the book was "modern" because of the way it was written (love that!).

The story is narrated by Josh, aka Filthy McNasty, an African American boy who loves LOVES basketball and is great at it.  He is the only seventh grader on his team who can dunk.  His father played professional ball for a European team and won a championship ring before he was sidelined by an injury.  Josh is also a twin.  His twin brother Jordan, or JB, also plays basketball, but develops a new interest in girls, leaving Josh feeling alone.  The text brings you through the changes that Josh unwillingly experiences because of the choices of people around him.

My students loved this book.  I had so much fun reading it aloud to them.  It's filled with basketball trash talk and rhymes (See, when I play ball,/ I'm on fire./When I shoot,/I inspire./The hoop's for sale,/and I'm the buyer.)

Entwined into the story, the author wove several vocabulary words that have their own chapters and Basketball Rules, which are really rules for life.  My favorite rule is #3: "Never let anyone lower your goals.  Others' expectations of you are determined by their limitations of life.  The sky is your limit, sons.  Always shoot for the sun and you will shine."

While this is a text that refers to basketball (A LOT) I don't think it just appeals to kids who are interested in sports stories.  This is a highly engaging text that will appeal to many readers in your classrooms.  I especially think that this is a book for your most reluctant readers.  Kids who are entering their tween and teen years will relate to the drama of young love and the chapters are short and easy to digest.  Pertinent vocabulary is explicitly defined within the text as well.

I'm currently planning a novel study for my fifth graders next year using this text.  I've posted a comprehension booklet on TpT:

 This packet includes 22 pages of higher order thinking questions, a project choice board and a full answer key with teaching ideas for the teacher! I've also included a CCSS anchor standard alignment, which you can see in the preview.  As always, this resource is posted at a discount from today until 7/10 around 9pm.

I also wanted to share a free resource: a vocabulary trifold for The Crossover.  You can use this download to help students define the vocabulary from the text or to write sentences using the words they've acquired.  Click on either image to download from Google Drive:

Tell Me: Has anyone else read The Crossover? The next book on my list is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson.  I have quite a few books for older readers, but I need more current books for third and fourth graders.  Any suggestions?


  1. I have not read Crossover, but I love this recommendation.

    Thank you,

  2. I have not read it, but I added The Crossover to my list. I have a growing collection of books written in verse, and I am always looking to add to it. Thank you!

    Fit to be Fourth

  3. Yay! It's great to see you on here. I'm excited about this book. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'