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Free Resources for Jason Reynolds' Long Way Down

Long Way Down (lexile 720) was the first book I finished at the start of the COVID lockdowns. A co-worker suggested it to me a few years ago when I had a class of tough boys that hated reading, but I never got the chance to read the book, let alone teach it. This was regrettable, since I know now that this would have been the perfect book for that class.

In Long Way Down, the main character's brother (Shawn) is killed in a shooting. This book in verse then follows the thought process of the surviving brother (Will), who feels he must avenge his brother's death. If he does avenge his brother, Will will perpetuate a spiral of death and destruction in the neighborhood. If he doesn't, he will have broken the "rules" of his family. Each "chapter" is a stop on the elevator that Shawn is riding down. He starts on the 8th floor and rides down from there, picking up a new person on each floor who has advice for him on how to proceed. I am getting chills just thinking about it!

Luckily for me, there's no shortage of boys who don't like to read coming through my classroom, and I got my chance to teach Long Way Down during the 2020-2021 school year. We were virtual for much of this year, which is reflected in the heavy directions on each handout. Since I had 4? 5? preps that year (I don't remember), I leaned heavily on this unit that I found online from Columbus City Schools. My kids LOVED the opening materials about social codes, etc. This unit really carried me at the beginning of my unit and helped me to frame my lessons going forward. Since I was teaching this book to 10 Integrated students, though, who are quite a few years below grade level in reading, I still needed to supplement the above unit with a lot of graphic organizers, and I needed to break up some of the provided activities into smaller steps.

The materials below are the handouts that I created to scaffold lessons for my students. They are organized by "section" since the book is organized into 8 sections (one section for each floor of the elevator ride). I highly recommend looking through the Columbus City unit and then using my materials as needed to scaffold.

Essential Questions

  • What is the "circle of violence"?

  • How does the circle of violence affect the community, families, and individuals?

  • Can this cycle be broken?

Long Way Down Pre-Reading Materials

Opening Chapter of Long Way Down (8th Floor)

7th Floor

6th Floor

5th Floor

4th Floor

No Materials

3rd Floor

2nd Floor

No Materials

First Floor