top of page
Kids Listen Activity Podcast, Episode 4: 
Book Club for Kids Presents The Crossover
Book Club for Kids is a virtual book club. In this episode, 5 fifth graders from Washington DC discuss Kwame Alexander's award-winning novel in verse about brothers and basketball. They even write a song about the book. NBA player Tarik Black reads from the book and host Kitty Felde interviews Kwame. Find the episode here
After you listen, do the activities, including listening comprehension, discussion questions, and reflection.
Find videos and pictures from the taping of the episode here
Kids Listen Activity Podcast
Book Club For Kids Activities
The Crossover


Subject/Grade: Middle/High School


Story Synopsis


The crossover dribble is a basketball move. But to some people it’s more than just a move, it is poetry. “The Crossover,” is a Newbery-Award-winning basketball novel by author Kwame Alexander. The students relate in many ways to the themes in the novel, such as struggling with relationships, loneliness, and loss. In this audio you will hear students discuss the book, as well as from the book’s author, about how basketball is a kind of poetry in motion and how language and writing can capture that sense of cadence and rhythm as well. Listen to learn more about how author Kwame Alexander was motivated to write about the poetics of basketball and how readers relate to and are inspired by the tragedy and triumph in “The Crossover.”


Listening Comprehension Questions

  1. According to this audio story, what are the two meanings of the word “crossover” in the novel “The Crossover” and how do those meanings relate to the overall theme of the book?

  2. What examples do these students and the author, Kwame Alexander, provide to support that basketball is “poetry in motion?”

  3. In what ways is Kwame Alexander’s language and writing in “The Crossover” poetic?

  4. How is the rhythm of crossover, a basketball maneuver, similar to his writing?

  5. How do these students relate to the themes in this novel? How is poetry a bridge for reluctant readers?


Discussion Questions

  1.  In your opinion, are basketball moves or other moves or plays in different sports, such as the crossover, a kind of poetry?

  2. Why or why not? Support your answer with reasons and details.

  3. In writing, what do you think makes poetry “poetic?” What are the elements of poetry Kwame Alexander might have to include in his writing?



5-6 words students will see again (not obscure) and are necessary to understand for this story.


crossover (noun): a basketball maneuver in which a player dribbles the ball quickly from one hand to the other

passed (verb): to die; used as a polite way to avoid saying the word “die”

verse (noun): writing in which words are arranged in a rhythmic pattern; poetry

in earnest (noun): in an earnest or serious way

frame of reference (noun phrase): a set of ideas, conditions, experiences, etc., that affect how something is thought about or understood

reluctant (adjective): feeling or showing doubt about doing something; not willing or eager to do it

accessible (adjective): easy to appreciate or understand


Listening Guide

Activate student knowledge: What students need to understand before listening.


On the board, write these two words: “basketball” and “life.”  Ask students what they know about basketball and what words would use to describe the game. Write their ideas under the word “basketball. Then ask students what they know about “life” and what words would they use to describe it? Write these words down under “life.” Finally ask students how the descriptions of these two words are similar. In essence, how is basketball a lot like life? You may want to introduce the word “metaphor” as a poetic device in which we can relate something concrete to something abstract.


Active listening supports: Directions: Complete the chart by finding evidence from the story for each topic.

       Themes in “The Crossover”                 The Author’s Inspirations                 Ways Poetry is Like Basketball 




• The **Crossover and Poetry Chart** will guide student listening as they takes notes on the connections between basketball, poetry and writing.


Reflect on the story:


Take time for student reflection on the audio story and discussion questions to check for understanding. You may want to ask students the following questions and have them write a one page reflection as well: Were you surprised to hear Kwame Alexander say that he read and wrote love poems and that these poems inspired him to write a basketball novel? What kind of poetry inspires you and how could you use poetic language to express an idea, a story, or a feeling?


Paired Text: Pair this Washington Post article on Kwame Alexander and “The Crossover” ( with this audio story.  

Ask students to read the article and take notes on Alexander’s writing process as well as his motivations and inspirations to write. Have students discuss his process in groups. As a whole class, ask students to talk about the advice Alexander offers and how this advice can help them become better writers. You may want to have students choose a topic and write a short poem about it. Students can present their poems to the class.


Kwame Alexander,

NPR and Kwame Alexander,

Kwame Alexander and Getting Kids to Read,

Interview with Kwame Alexander,

Kwame Alexander on Reading and Writing,

Basketball Poems,

Kids, Literacy, and Basketball,

From Basketball to Poetry--Stephen Dunn,

Poetry in YA Literature,


This curriculum guide was developed for Book Club for Kids by Listenwise.

bottom of page