Darius Daniels: Game On! is a book with endless teaching and learning possibilities

Guest blog by ELA Inclusion 4th Grade Teacher Christay Johnson

Darius Daniels: Game On! is a middle grade verse novel with more than 10 forms of poetry.

As an ELA inclusion teacher with a passion for poetry, sharing Darius Daniels: Game On! (by Author Caroline Brewer) with my class was a breath of fresh air. The book targets and challenges every level of reader in my 4th grade classroom, while giving students a character they can relate to.

We started the book with Vocabulary BINGO (a game provided by the author) to address new and challenging vocabulary they might encounter.  Then, as a whole group read-aloud, with a couple of copies available for students to take turns following along, we read a chapter or two a day. To my surprise, the entire class remained actively engaged. I would stop throughout the text and pause, giving them an opportunity to guess the next word. There were big smiles across the room with every correct guess, and chuckles for every one that was wrong.

Over the years, a common trend among my students on the autism spectrum has been struggling with interpreting concepts that are figurative. The riddles within Darius Daniels: Game On! helped in that aspect, turning the challenge for one of my students this year into fun. He was able to solve many of the riddles that the rest of us couldn’t and was proud to experience success where he normally struggled.

After reading the first book (in the three-book series), the author donated us a class set. Having a book in each hand gave us the opportunity to do even more. There were times we would read as a class, and then some days, I would have everyone partner-read. I let the students perform some of the raps aloud. Partner reading made practicing fluency and expression exciting.

There were days where I was able to use the book in place of some of the curriculum assignments (especially for poetry, vocabulary, and fluency). Our curriculum lessons for fiction and non-fiction are all based around read alouds. My students had already read some of our classroom books in previous grade levels. Instead of using them, we used Darius Daniels several times. We discussed making inferences, drawing conclusions, and themes.

It is a great book to read with students that do not enjoy reading. Many of my students who told me they did not like reading were the ones jumping ahead. We had huge gains this year.  I’d like to think it was from the exposure to Darius Daniels: Game On! I did notice that students were able to be actively engaged with or without the book in front of them, which was always a challenge with (previous) read alouds.

The possibilities with Darius Daniels: Game On! were endless and left us with many opportunities to expand on the book before we started reading, during, and after.  With half of my students receiving Special Education services, I found the book to be great for any level reader in the classroom! I’m already making plans to use it again next year.