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Free Resources for Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

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Look Both Ways is a collection of short stories by Jason Reynolds. Each story features a different kid from the neighborhood and what their life looks like inside and out of school. My coteacher and I chose this book during COVID because we wanted to work with a text that would be engaging but could also be adapatable to an ever-changing schedule. The series of short stories, and all the discussions that could be had for each, made it so that we could make a story last as long or a short as we needed it to. I used this book with my self-contained juniors during COVID. Even though the characters in the book were in middle schools, my students didn't really mind since the characters felt older and we talked about serious issues for each story.

I highly recommend this book for the classroom, especially if you have struggling readers, because you can skip stories as needed. But, each story in itself is rich enough for analysis and discussion, but the topics are accessible and allow kids to connect to the stories.

I though the book was corny when I read it on my own, but forced to make a decision about what to teach as the first day of school loomed, I decided to go with it. I am glad I did because it ended up working really well with my students. They were the missing ingredient that made this book great.

I don't have materials for every story, as the first year that I taught it, I alternated planning and teaching of stories with my coteacher, but I am posting what I have. Enjoy these free resources for Look Both Ways.

Introduction to "Look Both Ways"

I usually start the unit by having kids look at the cover of the book and make predictions.

This year, my coteacher and I also did a lot of work -before starting Look Both Ways -about different types of communities. We were building up to a different text, but once we got the hang of our classes, decided to switch to Look Both Ways. I have that work saved in a different folder, so I will post it here in the future.

"Water Booger Bears"

"Water Booger Bears" is the first story in Look Both Ways. The story introduces the setting for all of the stories (Latimer Middle School & the surrounding neighborhood), as well as some of two characters: Jasmine and TJ. Jasmine and TJ have been best friends for a long time and each are facing their own difficulties. Jasmine's parents are getting a divorce and she suffers from Sickle Cell Anemia. TJ is in the foster care system. Together, they support each other through these hard times. This first story is an excellent text to use for analogy and metaphor analysis as well as dialogue instruction.

Before Reading

Before reading this story, we went through some vocabulary and talked a little bit about what a conversation with friends might sound like.

For the vocabulary introduction, I gave the students the definition and an example for each word and they had to draw a visual. At the top of the handout is also a few graphic organizers with word parts. I had just completed an IMSE morphology training when I was making this handout and was trying to figure out how to incorporate word parts into my vocabulary instruction. My kids are also studying syllable patterns, so there is a column where they have to divide syllables. I have kids work on this handout for about 15 minutes a day for a week or two.

During Reading

My kiddos benefit from reading each story in short chunks, so I made reading guides for every few pages. The reading guides prompt the students to summarize, then to answer comprehension questions, and then to tackle analysis questions. I tried to focus on metaphor and irony throughout the packets. The materials below are listed in the order in which I use them.

Here are some of the vocabulary activities that I had kids complete while we were reading the story:

After Reading

Once kids finish reading the story, I would usually have them do some sort of writing prompt. For this story, I thought it would make sense to try and have the kids come up with an analogy to describe themselves. It was hard to get them to do this, and I didn't end up with the longer pieces that I wanted, BUT I ultimately got a least a paragraph from each kid.

At the end of any story, I also give a short comprehension quiz-just basic questions to gauge if they retained anything after all of the work we did. compiled all of my quizzes and post them as a unit test on TpT, which you can buy here. I just use the questions as needed depending on which stories I teach in a given year.

"The Low Cuts"

This is an adorable story about the kids who are always getting in trouble at school and why. Some things are not always what they seem.

My coteacher taught this story when I did it last so I do not have my own materials to post.

"Skitter Hitter"

"Skitter Hitter" is a story about regret, and that is the main topic that I chose to focus on, but it is also a good place in the book to start talking about bullying. This topic will come up in a later story, so starting the discussion now helps to build the foundation.

It took my kiddos a while to get through this story, so we started most days by reviewing the characters and then building from there. The story features three students-Pia, Marcus, and Steven. Marcus bullies Steven and Pia gets dragged into it when Marcus demands that Steven take Pia's skateboard.

Before Reading

During Reading

Here are some of the vocabulary activities that I had kids complete while we were reading the story: 

After Reading

After reading, I had the kids extend their connection to the story by thinking about voice & regret. Since the core of the story is about a kid regretting not using her voice at the right time, we talked about some of the current protest movements in our society and what that has to do with regret and personal voice. I then had the kids respond to one prompt, all related to these topics.


At the end of any story, I also give a short comprehension quiz-just basic questions to gauge if they retained anything after all of the work we did. compiled all of my quizzes and post them as a unit test on TpT, which you can buy here. I just use the questions as needed depending on which stories I teach in a given year.

  • Look Both Ways Unit Test

"How to Look Both (Both) Ways"

My coteacher taught this story in 2020 so I do not have my own materials to post.

"Call of Duty"

"Call of Duty" is one of my favorite short stories to teach. I even filmed me teaching part of it for my boards lesson one year. But I love it because it's about video games (kids dig this), social media, and bullying, and it's also about two boys who like each other. This is sometimes a hard/uncomfortable subject for my students and my coteachers and I always get a lot of good questions. Part of the lesson is about the bullying of LGBTQ youth, and I used materials from the article "Unpacking Gendered Arguments to Increase LBGTQ+ Allyship," which was in the September 2020 edition of the English Journal, to help me with that section.

Day 1

We started with a Nearpod where we asked kids to define things like "individuality," "conformity," "masculinity," and "femininity." This was really new to a lot of my kids so we did the best we could. I have no idea how to share a Nearpod from my school account to the general public, so these are just the Google slides, but it will allow you to see how we set up the conversation.

Day 2

-Journal (20 minutes)

  • Introduce the point of journaling

  • Go over prompt

  • Model

  • Journal: Consider what we talked about today and respond to the following questions: (100-150 words)

    • a. How are people treated when they push against gender expectations? Provide a specific example. (In other words, if someone is biologically a boy but doesn't act like a "traditional" "boy" how do people treat them? Think of girls, as well.)

-Share out: Anyone want to share what they wrote about in their journals?


  • Rate knowledge of vocabulary

  • Show kids how to fill in chart

  • Put them with a partner to complete

  • Talk through the words that looked familiar.

Start "Call of Duty"

  • Read aloud the first few pages, asking students to think about what they learn about the main character.

  • Have students reread the first few pages and complete this "Call of Duty" Opening handout

Day 3

"Call of Duty" vocabulary.

Reading Time

  • Discussed fluent reading

  • Listen to pages 81-85 from Audible. I used to read to the kids myself but the audiobook is way better.

Day 4

Vocabulary Bingo (20 minutes)

Reading Time

  • With your partner, continue rereading pages 81-85.

  • When you finish, fill in the "Ty Carson Characterization" handout.

  • If you finish early

    • Read your choice book for 20-30 minutes & fill in the online reading log

    • Practice vocabulary on

    • Work on the Lexia diagnostic.

      • Log in through Clever (via applications page)

      • Diagnostic should pop up

Day 5

"Call of Duty"-Analysis lesson

Bullying Introduction

I asked the students to take notes while I lectured on bullying. The information on these slides and handouts is from

Journal: Is bullying a problem at our school? Why or why not? Support your answer with details. (200-250 words)

Day 6


  • Check to see if we filled in example sentences and/or visuals on the paper chart

  • If we did, write a vocabulary story with 10 words.

Here are some ways to start your story (30 minutes):

  • Last night, I had a dream that I was 25 years old and I had the craziest life.

  • Once upon a time, I went on a vacation to Florida and was jumped on by a cougar.

  • When I am principal of Washington-Liberty high school, I am going to make the following changes….

"Call of Duty"

  • Give out passage. (I printed pages 88-90 for the students so that they could eventually highlight the types of bullies.) Review last section from last class. Read the new passage out loud or listen to the audiobook.

  • Review bullying terms/notes from previous class with this matching review.

  • Give bullying handout (in case kids did not finish their notes or lost their notes)

  • Give annotating directions

Day 7


  • Continue vocabulary story from day before.

"Call of Duty"

  • Continue annotations from the class before.


  • Prompt: In your own words, explain the different bullying “roles” that at least 3 characters played in this scene. Provide examples to support your answer.

  • Bullying Graphic Organizer & Paragraph

Day 8


  • Give each student a vocabulary word and have them write a contextualized sentence or find one online. Once students submit these, put them together to create a practice vocabulary quiz. You can also just buy a practice quiz and actual quiz here:

"Call of Duty"

  • Character review Kahoot

  • Make a prediction: Bryson just tried to stand up for Ty. What is going to happen to Byrson now? Make a prediction.

  • Listen to the rest of the story

Wrap Up Story

  • Watch Anti-bullying video

  • Get into small groups with a coteacher and complete the "Video vs. Story" handout. In this handout, I asked kids to compare what they saw in the video to what they saw in the story. Then they had to write about if either the video or the story matched the experiences in their high school.

Day 9


"Call of Duty"

I give a quiz at the end of each story. I compiled them into a full multiple choice test on TpT, but each story still has its own set of questions. (paid product).

Day 10


At this point in the book, my coteacher and I had to switch gears and prepare for the writing SOL, so, unfortunately, I don't have good lessons prepared for the rest of the stories. I still had the kids listen to the stories (the audiobook is awesome), and then we would connect the story to a persuasive writing prompt.*

"5 Things Easier To Do Than Simeon's & Kenzi's Secret Handshake"

My coteacher taught this story in 2020 so I do not have my own materials to post. We alternated stories.

"Satchmo's Master Plan"

Persuasive Writing Prompt: The Society of Therapy Dogs has recently announced that every school in the country should have a dog in the counseling office that can be accessible to students at all times. Do you think it is a good idea to have dogs in schools? Why or why not?

"Ookabooka Land"

This story is very sweet. Cynthia, the main character of this story, shares time and jokes with her grandfather (who is starting to fight dementia). The topics I chose to focus on were "hardship" and "humor."

Unfortunately, I deleted my opening PowerPoint. I am sure it was not the great anyway, but it is still kind of annoying that I did that. For the opening PP, I basically just introduced the characters in the story and then followed up the presentation with these questions:

  • Who is the main character? 

  • What is going on with mom? 

  • What is going on with Grandpa? 

After a brief intro, I had students listen to half of the story and asked them to listen to how Cynthia deals with hardship.

After that, I asked them to retell a short, funny story of their own.

The next class, I had them finish listening to the story. We briefly discussed in and that I had students complete a writing diagnostic so that we could prepare for the state test.

"How a Boy Can Become a Grease Fire"

I love, love, love this story and so do the kids. I have not had a chance to teach it again since we did it in 2021, but I would love to come back to it some time and really build out the lesson. In the story, the main character has a crush on a girl and his friends help him prepare to talk to her. Here is what I managed to get done in 2021:

  • Opening question (which I put on a Google form): What are some things you would do before going on a first date?

  • Listen to the story (audiobook)

  • After the story: Talk about confusion and questions & explain Vapo rub. Do a poll and ask the kids after all of this if they think Sandra will go on a date with Gregory.

"The Broom Dog"

Last story, but not least, was "The Broom Dog." "The Broom Dog" features a kiddo who has anxiety, which spoke to a lot of my students. If I had more time, I would definitely spend it on this story (a well as "How a Boy Becomes a Grease Fire").


  • Student task: Create a metaphor to describe a school bus & explain your answer. Example: "A school bus is a bumblebee because..."*

  • Explain your metaphor: Why did you describe the school bus in this way? Example: "I described the school bus as a bumblebee because it is full of kids who are ready to sting other it's sort of like a bumblebee."

  • Listen to the story up through 173-to the top of 177

  • Informal discussion: Which metaphor did you think was interesting? Why?

  • Informal discussion: What is the point of all of these metaphors? 

  • Journal: Comfort Object

  • Journal: Write 150-200 words about an object that brings you comfort when you are feeling sad, scared or anything else. Describe what the object looks like with a lot of details, and then describe why it brings comfort to you. 

  • Voluntary share out: What is an object/person/animal that brings you comfort? 

  • Read next chunk of the story 175-183; pay attention to things that bring comfort.

  • Question: What is the object that brings Canton comfort?

  • Review: What are details you remember from the rest of the book? What are things that happen after school? 

  • Listen to 183-188 (finish audiobook of Look Both Ways)

Choose 1 Journal to Complete

1. Ending journal: We have finally reached the end of Long Way Down, which was a collection of short stories.  What did you like about this book? What did you not like about this book? Would you change the ending? Should I teach this book next year? Why or why not? (150-200 words)

2. Symbolism Analysis: What is the symbolic significance of Canton's "object of comfort" being a "broom" and a "dog"? (150-200 words)

I hope some of these free resources for Look Both Ways were helpful to you! Feel free to leave comments or other resources in the comments section.

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