Standard Lesson

"Three Stones Back": Using Informational Text to Enhance Understanding of Ball Don't Lie

8 - 11
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Two 50-minute sessions
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As part of their study of Matt de la Peña's novel Ball Don't Lie, students re-read a selected passage closely, focusing on understanding the passage and the ways a secondary character's advice to the protagonist relates to an important concept in the book—namely, wealth inequality.  Then students investigate the accuracy of that character's claims by reading a nonfiction report on wealth inequality. They demonstrate their understanding by creating a graph, chart, or illustration that combines the information from both sources.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

NCTE’s (2012) policy research brief Reading Instruction for All Students cautions against overly prescriptive, narrow definitions of close reading and complex text, instead asking for teachers to take an approach that integrates both “text-based and situation-based” models (p. 2). “The text-based model focuses on the way words are organized into sentences, paragraphs, and whole texts. The situation model refers to the meaning that results from integration of the text-based approach with the reader’s prior knowledge and goals” (p. 2).  More specifically, this lesson provides examples of the brief’s suggestions to

  • “recognize the role that motivation plays in students’ reading by modeling for students how to engage with complex texts that do and do not interest them”
  • “have students read multiple texts focused on the same topic to improve comprehension through text-to-text connections ”
  • and “develop students’ ability to engage in meaningful discussion of the complex texts they read in whole class, small group, and partner conversations so they can learn to negotiate and comprehend complex texts independently.” (p. 2)

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

Copies of Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Peña




This report on contemporary wealth inequality provides context for the literary close reading in the lesson.


Student Objectives

Students will

  • collaborate with others to read closely and understand high interest text.
  • collaborate with others to read closely and understand challenging nonfiction text.
  • use understanding from one text to enhance understanding of another.
  • represent understanding through visual media.

Session One

  1. After students have read the “Lincoln Rec shuts down at eight on most night” chapter (pp. 220-233) of Ball Don’t Lie, explain to students that they will be re-reading and discussing the conversation between Dante and Sticky in small groups.  First, students will get into their groups and re-read the focal selection (from p. 227 “Nah, Sticky says” to p. 230 “You three stones back”).  Then they will use questions from the Small Group Discussion Guide for Ball Don’t Lie Passage to focus their conversation.
  2. Divide students into groups or let students select groups.  Have them decide how they want to re-read: silently, with one reader, or by using parts (the selection is almost entirely dialogue).
  3. After students have re-read the passage, give each student a copy of the Small Group Discussion Guide for Ball Don’t Lie Passage and explain that they should use the text to answer each of the questions.
  4. As students are discussing, circulate among the groups, listening for statements of interpretation, references to the text, and clarifying questions.
  5. After students have had sufficient time to discuss the passage, bring the class together for a full-class discussion of their responses.
  6. End the class by asking students to reflect on the importance of this discussion to the book as a whole.  What impact do they predict it might have on Sticky as a character and on the plot of the remaining chapters of the book?

Session Two

  1. Begin class by reminding students of the discussion from the previous session, calling particular attention to the evidence Dante uses to support his claim.
  2. Point out that Dante is lacking factual evidence to support his claims and explain that in this lesson, students will get back into their groups to examine a non-fiction text that relates to Dante’s argument.
  3. Distribute to each student a copy of the Pew Research Center report Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession.  Explain that they will read and discuss the report in groups, using the Small Group Discussion Questions for Pew Report on Wealth Inequality to guide their conversation.
  4. Ask students to return to their groups, taking the article and Small Group Discussion Questions with them.  Unlike in the post-reading questions from the previous session, these questions are designed to be answered as they read.  Based on your knowledge of students, consider modeling how you would read the graphs and respond to the first question—or facilitate a full-class discussion of the first question.
  5. Circulate the room as students read and discuss the questions.  Students may need additional prompting and support with this text, particularly with some of the specialized vocabulary: wealth vs. income; assets and liabilities; net worth; and recession.
  6. When students have finished discussing the article, have a representative from each group share the image they created.  Invite other students to comment on the image and the information it conveys.
  7. For homework, have students re-read the passage from Ball Don’t Lie and using the information from the Pew Report, create a figure, chart, or other illustration that combines the issues discussed in both.  They should focus on representing the relationships between factors in the two pieces.


  • Have students present the graphic created as homework for Session Two.  Consider having students create an infographic using an online tool such as Piktochart.
  • Students can further enhance their understanding of the novel by consulting various nonfiction texts to investigate Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a topic that undoubtedly comes up as Sticky’s behaviors become clearer to readers.  Once students understand the trauma revealed at the end of the novel, they are better prepared to inquire into the Sticky’s symptoms and their possible causes.
  • Support students’ further study of the issues raised in this lesson by asking them to research questions such as
    • Is the Pew study accurate?
    • What difference do these gaps make in the daily lives of the people behind the statistics?
    • How did things get this way?
    • Does it always have to be this way?

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Informally assess students’ responses to questions on the Small Group Discussion Guide, clarifying misunderstandings during the full group discussion or at the beginning of Session Two.
  • Collect the images students create for homework after Session Two and provide feedback on how well students integrate the ideas from Dante’s speech and the Pew Report.

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