Middle School Monday: Let’s Crossover Some More
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about The Crossover by Kwame Alexander and made a case for why it should be used in every middle school language arts classroom in the country. [Not even hyperbole! But, speaking of hyperbole, there is so much beautiful and accessible figurative language in The Crossover. You know. As a side note.]
I had said we were trying out a new choice-based mini project to culminate our learning and novel discussion. I said “I’ll let you know how it goes!”
This is me letting you know how it went.
It went well! We gave students five options to choose from—I’ve listed them below as well as a brief synopsis of further instructions.
- Poem/Performance of a Poem/Page from the Novel
- This could be an individual or partner project. Example pages (but you can pick ANY page): 10, 30, and 210.
- Letter to Kwame [at least two paragraphs]
- You could tell Kwame what you liked about the book, your favorite parts OR you could ask him questions about the characters, a sequel, etc. Did the book mean something to you? TELL HIM.
- Writing an epilogue OR mini-sequel [at least two paragraphs]
- Do you want to know what happens next month, year, or in five years? You TELL US!
- Creating a poem based on Kwame’s writing
- This novel is a great “mentor text”—meaning that it can help us write better! Pick a poem as a guide and create your own poem. Possible examples include pages 3, 14, 33, 210. [You are free to pick any page and/or write ANY kind of poem.]
- Draw a scene or character from the book
Every project choice was chosen by students—the most popular option was the letter. What does this tell me? Our students connected to the novel in a truly authentic way, and by extension, the author. Here’s an example of one of our student’s letters and how I shared his work/thoughts beyond the classroom.
The other half of our assessment/culmination piece for The Crossover was also a satisfying change this year. Instead of using a traditional study guide or having a test, I created a literary scavenger hunt for the novel. Some example questions are below.
- Find a character in the book who has a nickname. What is the character’s real name and nickname? Why is that his/her nickname?
- Find a page where a character is ANGRY. Write down the character, page number, and why the character is angry.
- Find an extended metaphor. What page? What is being compared?
- Find a page where someone is in physical pain. Who is it? What kind of pain is he/she in?
- Choose any of the numbered Basketball Rules and write what it means to you in your own words. (Also include the Rule #.)
- Which character changed the most from the beginning to the end of this novel? Also include WHY you think so.
- If you could change one character’s action in this story, who and what would it be? Include at least one sentence explaining WHY.
We—of course—allowed the students to talk to each other while they worked. [I try to make it the whole year without saying “I shouldn’t be hearing any talking”.] I love this exercise because there are so many possible answers for all of the questions. [There is not only one correct answer.] Students would argue over who was in the most physical pain. Who changed the most? Hmmm. A bunch of 8th graders discussing elements and characters from the novel with each other and passionately backing up their own opinions with evidence from the text? This is what dreams are made of!
What are YOUR favorite projects or activities you’ve used to culminate your learning with a novel?
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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