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A Reading Group Guide to Change Up
By Derek Jeter with Paul MantellDiscussion Questions Chapter 1—Curveball
Derek Jeter has been waiting a long time for his dad, Charles Jeter, to be the coach of his Little League baseball team. It’s been his dream, and it’s finally going to happen this season. Describe and discuss a dream that you’ve had for you or a family member. How is it similar or different from Derek’s? What steps do you have to take to make it come true?
In The Contract
, the first book in this series, we recall that Derek’s parents established a contract to ensure that he succeeds in school and accomplishes his life dreams. This contract lists several expectations and carries penalties for breaking the rules. Does your family have specific rules or expectations for you that involve your behavior and school activities? Explain what happens if you violate these rules.
Sometimes a metaphorical curveball can be thrown your way when you’re not expecting it. When Derek’s dad does not manage the team as Derek expected, Derek’s dreams about playing shortstop on a Little League championship team appear hopeless. Share an unexpected incident or event in your life that disrupted your good mood or hopeful attitude. Chapter 2—Nightmare
Derek is shocked when he hears that his class rival, Gary Parnell, is assigned to play on his baseball team. Gary hates sports; in fact, he clowns around, offers excuses to get out of exercising, and continually disturbs the other teammates with his insistent joking. How would you handle a situation with a disruptive person like that? Is there one best way to handle the situation?
Coach Chase and Coach Jeter were constantly occupied with teaching the other teammates and seem to have missed most of Gary’s talking and comical antics. Why was Derek so furious? Write down in a journal or notebook a similar feeling that you’ve experienced regarding a time when you did not understand or agree with an adult’s point of view. Discuss with a parent or a close advisor.
When Derek shared his frustration with his dad, Coach Jeter advised him to “be the best teammate you can be.” One of the terms in his contract is Respect Others
. How does this rule apply in Derek’s situation? What is a good team player? Chapter 3—Prank and Puzzles
Being a good teammate means there is no “I” in team, no place for a “What about me?” attitude. Do you agree that baseball is a team sport? Explain why or why not?
Derek is upset when he realizes that his pouty reaction to a prank played on him by another teammate results in a public reprimand of Derek by the coach. How could this embarrassing moment have been avoided? What would you have done?
Derek discovers he needs to focus on doing his best and maintaining a better attitude, even when pranked. What would the best reaction be to a petty prank or wisecrack? Chapter 4—More Surprises
What did Coach Jeter do to emphasize to Derek that it’s important to learn all aspects of the game? How did Derek respond? What would you have done?
Sharlee and her close friend Ciara are very excited about their personal triumphs on their undefeated T-ball team and can’t seem to stop talking about it. Which emotions did Derek try to hide during one of their exuberant rehashing’s of game events? Discuss these feelings.
Talking privately to his mom about his hurt feelings allowed Derek an opportunity to see the complex situation from a different point of view. Discuss the team lineup switch strategy from Coach Jeter’s perspective. Chapter 5—Play Ball!
First-game anxiety and playing in a new position is nerve-wracking enough for Derek, but when Gary plays another stupid prank, Derek loses it. Coach Jeter benches them both. What was the coach trying to teach about teamwork?
Life often serves up challenges that seem unfair, and failure sometimes happens. Losing the opening game of the season was tough on the team, but the coach offered a pep talk afterward to lift the team’s spirits. Do you remember a situation where you tried and failed? How did you feel? What did you do to change or improve the situation?
Derek was in a pretty foul mood after the first game. He felt losing by such a large margin could have been avoided. What was happening to his dream to win the championship? What was Derek’s father’s reaction to his son’s sullen behavior? Chapter 6—Wrestling with the Mess
Derek knows that he has disappointed his dad with his rash behavior and possibly jeopardized the team spirit with his negative attitude. What should Derek do to correct his behavior? How should Derek react, even if he feels disappointment with the team?
After another frustrating encounter with Gary, Derek has another heartfelt discussion with his mom, which reveals another concept that he had never considered. Does he have anything in common with Gary? What do you think? Describe two things that Gary and Derek have in common and two ways that they are very different.
One of the rules in Derek’s contract is to “Think Before You Act.” Does he live up to this expectation? Why or why not? Chapter 7—Growing Pains
Often we are asked to pitch in and do something “for your own good” or to be strong and “carry your own weight.” This may require extra effort to accomplish. Can you explain a few times when you were pushed out of your comfort zone for the good of an entire group?
Teamwork takes each individual striving together as a whole to win. What lessons can you learn from Derek’s dilemma?
Coach Chase asks Derek to try to get back to his love of just playing the game. He encouraged him to focus on the game and have patience. Derek began to look at the critical issues more positively. Why was this a good approach? Which approach would you have taken? Chapter 8—Let’s Make a Deal
Gary is challenged to “do better” on the ballfield if he wants to go to math camp in the summer. Working hard to achieve an objective is a great incentive. How can you improve your grades and test scores? What works for you?
Science and math are important classes to Derek. He knows that he has to study hard to keep his skills sharp and improve his test scores. What was the deal he made with Gary, and how would this challenge help them both reach their individual goals? Chapter 9—Smells Like Team Spirit
Derek knows that a little extra practice would perfect Gary’s batting skills and fielding abilities. After winning the bet with Gary in science class, Derek asks his father to take time to offer extra batting tips to Gary. What happens when the boys actually apply what they are taught?
Derek sees that Dave is in a pitching slump and also needs help. He offers to help him practice after school. How does the extra effort from Derek help both boys improve their team spirit?
Coach Jeter continues to use Derek to support the team activities in various ways. How does this affect his attitude? What makes you try harder when you are faced with obstacles? Chapter 10—Welcome to the Cellar
Gary and Dave began to improve their performance after taking fielding and pitching practice from Derek. How did this personal attention and practice with his teammates make a difference?
Derek felt uncomfortable asking Coach Jeter to give Dave a second chance at pitching. What would you have done in that situation?
Coach Jeter organizes and switches the lineup regularly to observe and test the strengths and weaknesses of his new team. What does this type of coaching style establish? Is it effective? Chapter 11—Stuck Together
In math class, Derek has to work with a partner on the final project of the year. It is worth 20 percent of the grade. His teacher assigns Gary to be his partner. Sensing disaster, Derek is ready to try something new. What would be the best approach for this project?
Gary is a top student in math and he loves to crunch numbers. When Derek showed him how important math was in baseball, Gary actually began to get excited about the game. Working out their team averages and comparing them to the Major League Indians’ averages was great fun for Gary. He was hooked. What changed? What key lesson did Derek learn?
Plans and dreams can change based on circumstances. Make a list of some of the projects you disliked in the beginning but then later found to be rewarding.
Working with Gary on his fielding techniques, Derek suddenly appreciates his father’s wisdom in assigning him to so many different positions. What was significant about this discovery? Chapter 12—Turnaround
After losing three games in a row, the Indians knew that the fourth game was a critical turning point in the season. All the players were tense and anxious because they were facing an undefeated team. Being the underdog has its advantages and disadvantages. List a few of both. Explain your choices.
Working on the baseball stats seems to lift Gary’s spirits. His opinion about the sport of baseball improved. How did this help him relate to his teammates? What was the key factor in his turnaround?
When Gary introduced the scoring charts to the coaches and players, he never mentioned that his effort was a joint class project with Derek, or that the plan was Derek’s idea. How did this make Derek feel? Why did he let Gary take all of the credit? Discuss what you would have done. Chapter 13—The Road Back
Derek and Gary received an A-plus on their math term project on baseball statistics. Why was this grade so important to both of them, and how did it affect their attitude to one another?
Dave’s new practice strategy improves his pitching performance. Working extra hard after school with Derek is paying off. How does Derek’s “never-give-up” attitude convince his coach to give Dave a second chance on the mound? Chapter 14—Home Stretch
Due to a League system rule change, the top six teams will compete in the playoffs. Would the Indians have a chance? What has to happen to give them hope? How can this team beat the odds?
Sharlee, Derek’s sister, led her undefeated T-ball team to a season championship, and Derek took time out of his schedule to be there for his sister. Which one of the points on the contract was Derek fulfilling? Why was this support for his sister important? Chapter 15—Do or Die
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” How does this quote apply to baseball and to life?
The Indians are headed to the play-offs because of genuine teamwork and cooperation. Select a player or a coach that you think deserved to be MVP. Explain why. Extension Activities
Ask readers to review Derek Jeter’s 10 Life Lessons. They are listed in the front of the book and on his website: http://mlb.mlb.com/players/jeter_derek/kids/handbook.jsp. MAKING A CONTRACT FOR LIFE
Select one item from the Contract for Derek Jeter
. Have the students describe in writing how their choice would make their life easier or provide a critical challenge. Group students with the same contract choice in one area. Allow enough time for each student to share their selection. BASEBALL IS A GAME OF REDEMPTION
Look up a few baseball quotes, clichés, or poems on the Internet. Pick two to share with the class. Have students write a brief 150- to-200-word essay on the meaning of one your selections, for example, grand slam
, or high and tight
. “WHO’S ON FIRST?” READERS’ THEATER EXERCISE [Large Group Activity]
Play a recording or video of the famous baseball comedy act by Abbott and Costello (click here: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/humor4.shtml
). Encourage discussion about language and fluency strategies. Distribute a copy of the famous classic poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_case.shtml
) to each young reader. Select four students (or more, if group is really large) to read certain passages in front of the class. Give them rehearsal time in a separate space. WHO ARE YOU? AN AUTO-BIO POEM [Small Group Activity]
Break the students into groups of four or into pairs. Each student will be asked to write an auto-bio poem about themselves and share it with their partner. The teacher should hand out the auto-bio template (see http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson398/biopoem.pdf
) and read the bio-poem sample about Rosa Parks to give students an example of how to write an auto-bio poem. Students should be imaginative and reflective. When the exercise is complete, the pairs should read the auto-bios of their partners. CREATE YOUR OWN CLASSROOM COLLAGE
Write a poem, produce an audio recording, or make a personal one-page “zine” on baseball and its most important players, tools, or terms. Include pictures torn from magazines, personal photos, or graphic images such as funky fonts, calligraphy, or comics. Then share with the class. Click here for more details on how to create a zine: http://experimentwithnature.com/03-found/experiment-with-paper-how-to-make-a-one-page-zine/#.VwREefkrLIU
)Guide written in 2016 by Chrystal Carr Jeter of Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library (no relation to Derek Jeter or his family). This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.