Can you imagine Harry trying to parent his children and tell them they need to settle down but then James Sirius just pulls out his edition of Harry James Potter: A History and goes, “When you were my age you followed an alleged mass murderer into a tunnel, faced a werewolf and nearly got killed by dementors. I think I can go to The Bent-Winged Snitches concert.” 

"What I’m Reading": An Independent Reading Challenge

Another assignment I’m trying out with students this summer.

"What I’m Reading"

So here’s the thing.  You read (or don’t read) A LOT in school, and I would venture to say that most of what you read is assigned to you by a teacher and has meaning to you because you have to read it in order to get a grade.  Add to that the fact that you might not enjoy reading and the challenge to truly engage with the texts you are asked to read grows. I get it.

But reading is very important.  And I’ll even put it in quotation marks.  “Reading” is very important.  It’s important for you to read written texts, to watch films and documentaries, to listen to speeches and discussions, and engage in discourse about the world and life in the world.  So I’m going to challenge you to start doing that right now.


1. Start reading.  This week, you need to read three to five different articles, essays, videos, blog posts, etc.  I’m not going to tell you where you have to find your reading material, but I will encourage you to think about the sources when you are considering your reading.  Again, you can read whatever you want, but make sure you keep in mind where your reading is coming from when you’re determining what you think of it.

2. Write about it.  Each week, in addition to your other blog posts, you must write a “What I’m Reading” post.  This post should be 300-400 words long and can engage with the text in a variety of ways.  You can argue with one or all of the texts, talk about how they are related, talk about how you found them or whether you found them interesting, discuss what questions they raise for you and how you might go about answering those questions.  The opportunities are endless.

3. Cite your sources.  Make sure you link to the articles or videos and cite properly.  Give credit.  Don’t steal!

shades of meaning: a vocabulary assignment

Just something I’m trying with my students to help them consider the power of words.  Thought I’d share.

Choose an article, essay, speech or story that you have read this week and found to be particularly beautiful, effective, or compelling.  The goal in this assignment is for you to analyze the language in the piece and to make some observations about how the writer’s use of language is contributing to the work’s overall effect and quality.


  1. Identify ten effective or beautiful sentences.  Copy and paste them into a document.

  2. Choose a word in each sentence that you think contributes to the power of the sentence, image, or idea it is conveying.

  3. Look up synonyms for that word, and consider how the weight or power of the sentence would change if you replaced the word with one of its synonyms.  

  4. Write a few sentences in which you discuss how changing the word might change the effect or power of the sentence.