I arrived at 4:30pm. He had already spent the whole day learning from a distance. I sat on one side of his dining room table with my mask on. He sat across from me with his copy of A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds in front of his mask face. He hands me the book and starts to fidgit with a pen. Presses down, ball point appears. Presses down again. ball point disappears.
Then he shares, “I’m to read to Floor 4 chapter.”
“OK, where are you now?” I ask.
“I’ve read floor 7 and 6.”
“Great. Tell me those parts.” As I listen, I can tell he totally understands who Buck is but is a little fuzzy about Dani so I open to the Floor 6 chapter and begin to read aloud. At times, I pause and make a comment. At times, he stops me to make a comment. He decides to underline these lines: Buck saying: You don’t have it in you. And Dani’s line asking: What if you miss?
His 8th grade English teacher expects annotations and words underlined and he complies.
I glance at the time showing on my iPhone and notice there is enough time to read another part. But I also see that we have read floor 6 and 5 and his fidgiting seems to be getting stronger. So I ask, “Should I read the 4th floor?”
“How about we play one of your games?” He is referring to games we’ve played before which I learned from reading Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk: Teaching Kids to Talk with Clarity and Purpose by Shana Frazin and Katy Wischow. I draw a table on the notebook paper I brought with me and add the 4 labels to it. I give him a few torn off small square sheets and I take a few. He presses his pen again and writes Middle Drawer, Uncle Mark’s Video Camera and Pennydrop. I write Cream for Mom and Monkey Bars on my 2 squares. We place them together and mix them up.
He draws first. “This is kinda a big deal. Shawn was in that neighborhood buying the cream for his mom. It’s what started it all. I’d put it at Kinda or Really Big.” “I agee, ” I say and then drew my card. We conversed back and forth for 15 more minutes, playing this game. My 8th grade friend was tired on Wednesday afternoon, after already learning all day long from a distance on his computer. Having a game up my sleeve gave him the chance to solidify his thinking and live with this amazing book a little bit longer.
Once I got home, I thought about how I could use jamboard, a new tool I just started exploring, to play this game, too. So many possiblities to keep readers engaged and reading!