Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dope Sick

Here in the clink, there's no rest for the weary. We're moving right along, from yesterday's rhyming whimsy of Dr. Seuss straight into the harsh realism of Walter Dean Myers' Dope Sick. Actually, it is an impulsive choice to read this book aloud, mostly because of a first period scheduling error (I had two students of drastically different reading abilities paired together in the same class). At 8:00 am, I decide to go for it, and dive right in:

"My arm was hurting bad. Real bad. The bone could have been broken. I couldn't tell. I just knew it was hurting and swollen. I felt like just taking the gun out and throwing it away and giving up so I could get the mess over with."

Glancing at my two students, I can tell immediately that I've got them. Hooked. I swear, this job is so much like being an angler. That I love both fishing and teaching reading really comes as no surprise. There's this thrill I get when I know I've got a bite. I feel as though Dope Sick is great bait for my students, my (mostly) reluctant teen readers. So I let out the line, and give them more:

"I started to lift my arm to look at my watch and the whole arm just lit up with pain. The bone had to be broken. I figured it was two or three o'clock in the morning. Skeeter had called me just past midnight and told me they got Rico. I knew Rico was going to punk out. In a way I was glad they got him, but I knew he was going to blame everything on me."

"Yo Miss, what's this book? This book is crazy," remarks Jose. Jose, who reads at about a first grade level, is a self-proclaimed "non-reader." I think that this status is probably less a result of him not wanting to be a reader, but due more to the fact that reading brings such frustration. And shame. Jose knows that his classmate, Denzel, is a much more able reader, probably at a 7th grade level . But I'm reading aloud to both students with purpose, to level the playing field, to make the same text as accessible to one as the other.

"So, guys. What's happening here so far? Why do you think this character's arm is broken?"

I sit back and listen to their responses, and we talk about making predictions based on what we know so far and how it might relate to the title of the book. Before I can continue, Jose implores me to keep reading, and he wants to know if we'll be reading this book every day this week. "Well, I imagine we can fit this into our lessons this week. You like this book, huh?" Jose, wide eyed and alert, nods vigorously.

Hah, I say to myself. I got me a fishie.

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