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SEL with ALM: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Posted by Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO on Jun 20, 2022 6:49:32 PM
Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a young adult novel and winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award Honor. It is filled with SEL themes of the importance of family, friendship, trust, honesty, responsibility, and being true to yourself. This post explores how these themes connect to the CASEL SEL competencies and can be adapted to use within grade 8 of the Emozi® Middle School Socratic Seminar activity.


The Crossover follows the life of 12-year-old Josh Bell and his twin brother, Jordan. The boys share a love of basketball and hope to someday follow in the footsteps of their father and play professionally, but when Jordan meets a new girl, they find themselves drifting apart. Written in verse (it contains over 100 poems) and peppered with rules about basketball, brotherhood, love, life, and family, this novel teaches readers it's not about winning but how you play the game that really matters. The author, Kwame Alexander wrote his first poem at 12 years old and has continued to write ever since. To date, he has written 32 books and contributes to NPR's Morning Edition. My fun fact about this novel is that I'm horrible at basketball but I loved this book and whether you are good at basketball or not, I think you'll love it too! 

Socratic Seminar Questions

We meet Josh Bell, a young basketball player. He talks about his ability by saying "See, when I play ball, I'm on fire. When I shoot, I inspire. The hoop's for sale, and I'm the buyer."

  • What does this quote tell you about how Josh sees himself? What emotion word might describe this vision?
  • How did Josh get his nickname?
  • Does he like his nickname at first? Why? What makes him change his mind?
  • We meet Jordan Bell, Josh's twin brother. Describe Jordan and his level of confidence.
  • What are Josh's 5 reasons he has long hair? What does his hair mean to him?
  • Why does Dad have to sit in the top row at basketball games? Describe how Dad feels about his boys and their abilities?
  • We find out that Dad use to play professional basketball. Describe how he feels about his retirement.

Basketball Rule #1 "In this game of life your family is the court and the ball is your heart. No matter how good you are, no matter how down you get, always leave your heart on the court."

  • What does Dad mean by this rule?

alm-crossoverEmozi Grade 8, Unit 2 Lesson Topics

  • Lesson 1:  Rules for Life
  • Lesson 2: Human Variation
  • Lesson 3: Pain and Self-harm
  • Lesson 4: Self-talk
  • Lesson 5: Be a Team Player
  • Lesson 6: Extracurricular Activities
  • Lesson 7: Perspective Taking
  • Lesson 8: Relationships
  • Lesson 9: Conflict
  • Lesson 10: Apologies and Forgiveness
  • Lesson 11: Leadership Skills
  • Lesson 12: Loss

For the full Socratic Seminar for this novel and full lesson plans for the topics listed, please check out pathsprogram.com for more details on how to get Emozi for your classroom, or request a lesson preview below!

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Topics: middle school, Emozi® Middle School, Socratic Seminar, SEL with ALM