On the basketball court 17 year old Greg "Slam" Harris is in control.
His disciplined body does what he tells it, the ball is an extension of
his arms and his powerful legs allow him to elevate above the ground.
Off the court however his life is a mess. His grandmother is in the
hospital on her death bed, his grades are horrible, and his best friend
is possibly dealing crack. This is what Slam is facing in life.
He wants to go to college then continue on to play for the NBA. Though
his grades may prevent him from doing that. So, he gets help from Mtisha,
who Slam loves, to tutor him in math so he can stay eligible. Slam's
coach feels Slam is a showboat and does not play him. Slam befriends the
old basketball coach at Latimer who not only gives him basketball tips
but also gives him tips on life. The climax of the story is when
Latimer plays Carver for the right to be the first place team in the state
tournament. It puts friend against friend, Slam versus Ice.
It is a very tight game all the way but Latimer is victorious. At
the afterparty Slam finds Ice dealing crack to a woman. So, Slam
gets in a fight with Ice and ends their friendship.
Slam is a very good book that shows how a kid from the streets that has a talent can rise from adversity and how his struggles off the court can effect him on the court. It can also show a child that there are awards if you make the right decisions in life. That if you put your heart and soul into anything they can become successful. Walter Dean Myers writes wonderfully. You feel as if you were on the court with Slam during games and that you can feel the pain that he goes through off the court.
Author/ Illustrator Study
Dean Myers writes predominately children and young adult literature.
He was born in West Virginia in 1937, but he spent much of his childhood
in Harlem, New York. He was raised by foster parents and had a pretty
good life. He had a speech impediment that he overcame to write poetry
and short stories.
In 1954 he quit high school and joined the Army Reserve. He worked for the New York State Department of Labor, a transformer company, the post office, and a rehabilitation center. He also wrote for many magazines and periodicals. Later in his career, he won a contest run by the Council of Interracial Books for Children with his book, Where Does a Day Go? in 1969. He has a second wife and four children. He also volunteers at schools in Jersey City where he now lives. In 1984, he received his degree from Empire State College. He has branched his writing style to include topics of nonfiction and historical fiction including black history with his book Now Is Your Time! and The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner which has an 1880ís historical setting.
The section dealing with classroom connections has unlimited areas of study. The book is aimed at a upper middle school high school audience. The following section will break down the various usages of Slam in a classroom atmosphere. The teacher should remember that a unit connecting all areas of the book, and applying a wholistic approach to teaching, will have the best results.
Social Studies/ This is by far the area where the most discussion about Slam will come from. Geographic studies of the area where the story takes place as well as population topics dealing with minority and integration issues are all appropriate discussion topics.
Health And Physical Education/ The author does a great job depicting real life situations young athletes face with athletics and peer pressure. Many times in our schools Health And P.E. are connected. This book lends itself to issues that can be discussed on and off the athletic field or court in this case. Drugs, peer pressure and where students priorities are aimed are all appropriate topics to be touched on.
English/ Throughout the book Slam is working on a documentary dealing with his life and his and his neighbors struggles through his and their eyes. English students could do documentaries on their own geograhic and cultural differences as compared and contrasted to Slam's. They could then write to inform us about these differences and similarities. ( in Maryland this will serve as a task) Students could also use issues in the book as writing prompts for further reflection.
Math/ Dimensions of a basketball court as well as techniques dealing with score keeping are all issues that can be covered in the realm of mathematics. Statistics dealing with scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shot averages can all be covered in math statistics class as well.
Art/ The possibilities in art class are endless as well. Students could draw picures of what Slam and his community look like as well as sketches or comic strips dealing with certain situations in the book.
Slam is from Harlem, New York. Go to these websites and find out a little about Harlem using the maps and descriptions of different places to go and eat.
http://www.artnyc.com/Maps/MapHarlem.htmlThen discuss the different roads and places that Slam went to in the book, see if you can find them on the map.
Walter Dean Myers also writes poetry, which is apparent with his descriptive ways in the book. When Myers writes about Slam playing basketball he is very descriptive and the reader can feel what Slam is feeling. Go to this website of poetry of different poets from Harlem:
http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/poetryindex.htmResearch three different poets from Harlem and Walter Dean Myers. Discuss their poetry and see if there are any connections to Slamís life.
Slam is big into basketball and Harlem is known for itís own Harlem Globetrotters. Go to this site:
http://www.HarlemAllStars.comFind out about the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Discuss whether you think Slam would join the team or not and use examples.
Walter Dean Myers grew up in Harlem, New York just as his character Slam did. Find out about Myers and his childhood by going to these sites:
http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/myers.htmlResearch about Myers and then compare and contrast him to his own character, Slam.
List of Related Books
Other Books by Walter Dean Myers
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Heather Holden Webquest & Related Websites
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