Monday, May 11, 2009
team-teaching with the yankees
I've used basketball to sell reading with Matt de la Pena's book Ball Don't Lie, and I've succeeded in getting the attention of several reluctant readers. Recently I acquired a new student and, in the course of discussion during our reading interview (in which I gauge a new student's interests, academic strengths and challenges, and so forth) it became clear that I have a baseball fan on my hands. Not just an everyday baseball fan, who can tell you the difference between a ball and a strike but not the difference between a batting average and a slugging percentage, nor the distinction between Joe and Dom DiMaggio. No, this young man is of a different ilk. He is a Yankee fan. Upon realizing this, I thought to myself: HAH. Little does he know his reading teacher is a life long, bona fide, jock lady Yankee Fan who, if left to her own devices, could easily spend a day reading the New York Post sports section and listening to WFAN radio as she could showing up for a day of work.
We've got ourselves some common ground, I thought. Until I heard him say, "I don't read." What? Sorry? Come again? "Miss, I just don't like to read. I don't read on my own...it's not something I do."
"You say you like the Yankees, right, Domenic?"
"Have you read the new Joe Torre book?"
Domenic looks at me with a stare that could win all staring contests. "I've heard of it," he finally says, still eyeing me with part curiosity, part shock.
"Let's go shopping. Come here." I motion for him to move his chair a little closer to where I'm sitting at my computer, and I pull up the Amazon website. In a flash, I have the order placed. "I should have this by the end of this week. I've been dying to read it, too. This will be fun."
Well, fun it has been, but it's taken some scaffolding to get the party started. Domenic's assessed reading level is roughly 5th-6th grade; The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, is written at about a 12th grade level. Ah, the learning curve of the first year reading teacher. Whoops. But, I figure, that's okay. We'll read it together in class, out loud, together, whatever. This kid needs to read something that he has genuine interest in, something that's current and relevant. Domenic started reading TYY a few weeks ago. He (we) are on page 49. Pace is not something that concerns me. Steady progress is. Discussing this book with Domenic, making connections to his experiences, using it to create writing lessons - this is where the real value of The Yankee Years lies.
Recently, after the Red Sox took their fifth win in a row from the Yanks this season, I asked Domenic what he thought of the Yankees' hopes for playoff contention. He gave a thoughtful response and pointed to many angles, from the pitching staff to production at the plate to managerial issues. "They've made some mistakes, sure," Domenic said. "But if you look at the whole picture, they're made of good stuff. They have hope."
Kind of like you, Domenic, I thought. No. Just like you.