Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.

What to Expect:

I love the quote to the left.  I think it really captures what it’s like to be a teen–so ready to live life and taste independence, yet still not quite able to “go” anywhere or do anything significant. My hope is that these books will help with that natural frustration and antsiness that comes during this time.  Even though you have to stay here (at home, school, etc.) you can still experience adventures! 


My expectation is that you’ll read one book per month.  That’s a pretty light load, as most of the books are under 200 pages. You can move as slowly or as quickly as you like–it’s up to you.


Every book has a link to a free Audiobook. I couldn’t find one website that had all the books, so you’ll find a different setup for each book.  Some audiobooks are broken down by chapters, some are hour-long audio sessions, and some are in video format.  So you’ll need to be responsible for keeping track of where you are in the book in different ways if you choose to use the audio versions.

If you do listen to the audio version, I want you to also follow along in the physical book while you read.  This year we are working on becoming more sophisticated readers and writers.  That means we need to read consciously (not listening to audiobooks while we clean our room or get other chores done).  I’ll be asking you to underline and write in your books, so, of course, that requires you to have a physical copy in your hands.

The Breakdown of Each Section:

Each book’s assignment has 4 different sections (essentially one for each week if you’re taking a month to read each book).

Here’s how I’ve broken up the content.

The Before You Read section generally has information about the author and some context for the story.  It’s a great way to get you invested in what you’re about to read.

The While Your Reading Section is when you’ve read a few chapters of the book and I’m wanting you to stop and do a few things to consider what you’re reading and get you connected to the story and the characters.  Sometimes there’s a written assignment and sometimes it’s just a teaching lesson that encourages you to notice certain literary elements prominent in the story.  Please be sure to take the time to read this section and understand the literary elements I talk about.  If you see a word that has a hyperlink, click it and it will take you to the definition of that word or literary element.  You’re getting to the age where you need to be responsible for your own learning and knowledge–which means clicking links and being curious about things you don’t quite understand! And, of course, you can always ask me questions if there’s something that just doesn’t make sense.

The Finished Reading Section also contains some new concepts and things to consider about the literary elements of the book.  But it may also talk about some things that happen at the end of the book, so just be aware that you might not want to check out this section until you really are done with the book to avoid any “spoilers”!

The Time to Write Section is where we bring in different forms of writing about the book.  It may be creative writing, it may be just answering content questions, or it could be something more like an essay where you have to use information from the book to support your hypothesis.  Either way, nothing will be too long, but I will require you to put thought and care into each assignment. We are looking to make your writing more sophisticated this year, so while I won’t be focused on length, I will be focused on the organization of your thoughts, well-constructed sentences, and a demonstration that you understand the literary elements of the story (the content that we cover in the “While your reading” and “Finished Reading” sections).

The Watch the Movie section is fun (I think)–almost every book we’re reading this year has a movie adaptation. I think that’s cool because it gives you the incentive to get through the book so you can watch a movie at the end! Plus it’ll help you discern the difference between the richness a book can provide vs. the movie version.  Some movie adaptations are SO GOOD–but others fall flat. Feel free to watch the movie during your school time (another perk to this section)!

One Final Note:

Reading helps us better understand the human condition by connecting us to real-life struggles through the eyes of different characters. It will actually be great training for a life performing on stage.  The best performers are ones who understand character development, the narrative arcs of stories, and how to connect to experiences vastly different than our own.  I hope that you’ll enjoy getting to know these characters (while also learning a little about yourself) as you read this year. I think you’ll find that even though every character is different–there are common human traits that underscore them all.  Each character suffers, triumphs, struggles, loves, and hates.  To do so is to be human. Understanding human nature is essential to great acting. Try to keep in mind that all this reading and connecting to stories will be great practice for your life on Broadway!!


Before You Read:

Before you dive into A Wrinkle In Time, take a look at this article that gives a little background on the author, Madeleine L’Engle, and some of the obstacles she faced on the road to publishing this book.

This book covers themes of good vs. evil, non-conformity (the opposite of conforming), and the idea that love conquers all.  Even still, this book has been banned by Christian-minded people who believe it promotes anti-Christian thought and witchcraft.  You’ll have to be the judge of that….
While You Read:

Check out the two first pages in your resources binder.  Notice the people who are quoted in various chapters throughout A Wrinkle In Time. They are writers, artists, and philosophers. If you’re not sure what a philosopher is, check out this quick article that explains:

In our world today, philosophers and artists are generally seen as dreamers and “un-scientific” because they don’t use “facts” (ideas that can be tested in a lab using the scientific method) to support their theories.  But really philosophers’ theories and artists’ observations are the birthplaces of science.  If we didn’t have those who questioned the nature of things and how the universe and human beings work, we wouldn’t know where to start with our scientific inquiry.  The two are dependent on each other, and each deserves it’s own respectful attention.

Finished Reading? Consider This:

Every story has a Narrative Arc. Learning about the narrative arc is an essential skill for literature analysis and all kinds of writing, so it’s important to become familiar with it.

Look in your resource binder for the StoryLines worksheet. It offers a guide for the narrative arc in  A Wrinkle in Time. Read through the worksheet and get familiar with the elements of the narrative arc as you finish reading the book.
Now, I want you to get creative!
On the next page in your notebook you’ll have a page labeled “Common Objects in A Wrinkle in Time”.  You’ll also see I’ve drawn a picture of some eyeglasses because eyeglasses appear over and over in the book (Mrs. Whatsits glasses, Charles Wallace’s glasses, etc.)
Now, I want you to take some time to think about what objects appear over and over in the story (either for the main character or for other characters in the book).  Go ahead and draw and label the different physical items that seem important (or get repeated often)  in the book. For now, I just want you to notice.  In later books, I’ll help you understand more about objects that show up in books and how we can make sense of what they are telling us.
Time to Write:

Check out your binder for your three quick writing assignments. The first is called “Discovering Themes” .  The next two are “Write Angles” worksheets that cover characterization and creative writing and vocabulary.

The first page in this section, “How to Find Theme” talks a little bit about theme.  A theme is an idea the author is trying to convey about a topic (and how he or she feels about that topic).  We’ll get a lot of practice figuring out the themes in our novels as well as how to write essays about those themes, but for now, we’re just identifying themes by completing the page in your binder entitled “Discovering Themes”.  I’ve given you an example but I want you to write two on your own.

The next one helps us focus on  Characterization. Characterization uses context and detail to reveal something about a character. In literaturecharacterization is expressed directly and indirectly through physical descriptions, dialogue, characters’ inner thoughts, and actions. These details reveal the characters’ behavior, psychology, personality, and motive.

Following the prompts on the Showing vs. Telling worksheet, fill it out using whatever character you choose.

Follow the directions on the Creative Writing and Vocabulary worksheet to come up with a new Character and introduce the character to us.


Watch the Movie:

You have permission to rent this movie:

Before You Read:

Check out this quick video about the author, S.E. Hinton.

(The video cuts off a few minutes in, but that’s ok, I just want you to see the first part about S.E. Hinton, a brief synopsis of The Outsiders, and when she wrote the book).

In the book, you’ll be learning about 1960’s teens and their social standings.  Read this article on  “the greasers” to find out more about this trend among teens in that era.

The Greasers: Looking Into the History of the 1950s Subculture 

While You Read:


Let’s talk a little bit more about characterization.  If you remember from the last book, charcterization uses context and detail to reveal something about a character. In literaturecharacterization is expressed directly and indirectly through physical descriptions, dialogue, characters’ inner thoughts, and actions. These details reveal the characters’ behavior, psychology, personality, and motive.

As you read the first few chapters, briefly describe each of the main characters.  Write down which group each belongs to, how old they are, and some unique things about each character.  Write down quotes or situations from the book that helped you draw these conclusions about each character. This will help you start to to read carefully and consciously, which is a very important part of reading good literature and getting the most out of the rich text.


On a different note, I want you to notice how Taylor (and I) underline certain things in books and write in the margins.  This is called annotatingAnnotating requires a reader to be present (conscious) while reading.  Think of it as a tool for catching the deeper meaning in characters, situations, or events in the story.  As you become more sophisticated in your reading, you will begin to see beyond the literal interpretation of the story.   At this point in the year, I  just want you to notice and read what Taylor and I have written and start to understand how we’re taking a part of the story and drawing deeper meanings from what the author wrote.  Maybe the author meant it to mean something deeper or maybe not–who knows? But the gift of reading is in what WE take from the story (which is different for everyone!).  Later, I’ll have you start to do your own annotating. It’s actually pretty fun to draw your own meanings and importance from the books you read.


Finished Reading? Consider This:

Let’s revisit themes and symbols.

I have two separate activities for you to begin to develop our understanding of themes and symbolism in novels.

In your notebook, you’ll find the Themes worksheet again.  I’ve included the discussion page in case you need a refresher on what themes are and why they are important.  Go ahead and fill out the worksheet listing the topics from The Outsiders, then use the process for discovering themes by writing sentences about those topics.

We are going to take this one step further in the next section, so stay tuned….

Next we’re going to do our creative picture drawing again.  I’d like you to think about the common objects that were important to The Outsiders and go ahead and draw them on paper.  You’ll see I’ve included two (the blue mustang and Bob’s rings), but I want you to think of 5 to 7 others.  If you have any questions, please ask.  We’ll be using these pictures to do a writing assignment later, so I want to make sure you’re clear on this part.

Time to Write:

Go back to your worksheet on Themes that you did last week.  You should have come up with two or three themes you noticed within The Outsiders.  These themes are represented by statements you wrote.

Now we need to provide evidence from the text to show how we know that’s what the author believes about this topic.  I’ve provided an example for you so you can understand this process.  You will be doing the same thing for the theme statements you wrote.  You need two examples of evidence for each of the themes you chose.


Next, I want you to look at the pictures you drew on your “Common Items” page for The Outsiders.  You’ll be choosing two of these objects and go through the process of understanding how these objects represent an idea or feeling regarding the character.

I provided an example for you using Bob’s rings.  You’ll be doing the same thing with two of your objects.


Finally, answer the following questions in paragraph form on a separate sheet of paper.  We’re going to try to be a little more sophisticated, so choose 2 questions where you’ll use actual quotes from the book to support your answer.

1. How does Ponyboy come across as an individual despite his identity as Greaser?

2. Are there any commonalities between Dally and Bob?

3. What is the significance of the incident where Ponyboy is angry with Cherry for her refusal to meet an injured Johnny?

4. What role does appearance play in intensifying the division between the Greasers and Socs?

5. What are the literary pieces that are referred to in the novel? Briefly explain why you think they are significant.

Watch the Movie:

You have permission to rent this movie:


Before You Read:

Alice in Wonderland is a must-read just because the scenes and characters from this book are referenced in our everyday lives time and time again.  It’s important you get the references.  It’s like being “in” on the joke when you get the references–and believe me, lines and phrases and characters from this book are referenced ALL. THE. TIME.  Once you’ve read it, you’ll start to see it all over the place.  It’ll make you realize how being a well-read person opens up a whole new world of understanding!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the first of two books.  The version you have has both stories in one book–but you’ll just be reading Alice’s Adventures.  The second story in the series is Through the Looking Glass.  If you’d like to continue reading about Alice, you can do so by finishing the rest of the book (which is that story).


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is full of crazy, imaginative things.  And SO. MUCH. SYMBOLISM.

But before we dive in, let’s take a closer look at the author, Lewis Carroll…


First, check out the first page of your binder to see a map of England and the river Thames where Lewis Carrol lived and based his stories.

Charles Ludwidge Dodgson, whom we know as Lewis Carroll, was a fascinating man, much more interesting than most of us have ever thought, and certainly much more than “just” the author of the Alice books!  He was a brilliant high-level mathematician, a master photographer (and pioneer in the art form), a theologian and minister, a creator of games and riddles, and a prolific inventor.

Many of his inventions involved making reading and writing easier for people, such as:

  • the nychtograph for the writer who wakes up in the night with an idea, and doesn’t want to have to light a candle to write it down
  • a special apparatus to help a bedridden reader hold a book sideways
  • a stamp-case with special sleeves for different values, for prolific letter writers like himself; it includes a special booklet on how to be a good correspondent
  • an improvement to the typewriter that made it easier to justify the left margin.

Charles attended Christ Church College at Oxford and graduated first in his class in mathematics. He went on to teach mathematics there, and wrote stacks of books about higher math. He also loved to tell stories, invent and improve upon games, and make up puzzles,  from the time he was a child. The eldest of eleven children, he kept them entertained in all these creative ways and more. He was a master communicator, even though a childhood bout with a fever left him deaf in one ear, and a case of bronchitis went into his chest, and he suffered from a stammer (he called it his “hesitation“).

These things may have kept him from interacting fluently with adults, but they certainly didn’t keep him from developing his mind, and they made him more comfortable with children. He never married, but he played the role of an uncle to his friends’ children, as many Victorian bachelors did. He was a particular friend of George McDonald’s, and often spent time with his family and entertained his children. But perhaps his favorite was a young girl named Alice Liddell. He would often take Alice and her two sisters on both trips and picnics, and entertaining them with stories along the way.

It was on one of these excursions of the Thames River from Oxford to Godstowe that the short story of “Alice’s Adventures Underground” was first told. Alice enjoyed the story so much, she begged him to write it down, and so he did, in longhand, with his own illustrations. Alice loved it, as did her sisters and George McDonald’s children. A year later the book was published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under the pen name Lewis Carroll, to keep his important mathematical writings separate from this children’s fantasy story.

The book was an instant success. There’s a well-known story that Queen Victoria loved it so much, she ordered/requested/directed that Carroll dedicate his next book to her. The story goes that the author obeyed, but (perhaps not liking being told what to do) the book he wrote and dedicated to her was no delightful fantasy. It was  An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations. Isn’t that hilarious? We wish it were true, but it turns out it’s NOT.  As we must remember, “well-known” doesn’t always mean “true”–a lesson to tuck away for research and life.
While You Read:

Lewis Carroll uses a lot of wordplay.  Notice these as you read:


A strategy used to create confusion and nonsense in Alice in Wonderland is the author’s use of puns.  A pun is a joke that makes a play on words. Puns rely on words that are similar in spelling, sound, or meaning to make their listeners laugh.

There are different kinds of puns.

Homographic Puns – You’ll find homographs, which are defined as words that are spelled the same way but have different meanings, in homographic puns. Homographic puns are also known as heteronymic (“same name”) puns. They’re funny because they’re true in both interpretations of the word, and they are best understood when read.

Homophonic Puns – When your pun relies on the way words sound alike but have different meanings and spellings, it’s a homophonic pun. Homophonic puns use homophones or near-homophones to be funny — the punchline is in the double meaning of the word.

Puns with Idioms –  Idioms are sayings we use in everyday language that, when taken literally, are ridiculous.  So they are considered “figurative speech”.  In other words, idioms mean something different than the individual words.  You like idioms, so you’ll recognize these.  Like when I say, “I’m gonna hit the hay. Hit the hay is an idiom which means go to sleep.  It doesn’t literally mean I’m going to physically go hit a bale of hay!  But you always like to make reference to that–so you appreciate idioms!  It shows a good sense of humor!

Complete the three worksheets in your binder on the different types of puns.  


The Poems of Old:

Alice does a lot of quoting of poems to check to see if she’s “in her right mind.”  Because we don’t have the context of an 1860s reader, we lose a lot of the silliness that these episodes provide.  When Alice in Wonderland was written, it was common that all children memorized poems in the McGuffy Readers and used the same textbooks in school–therefore everyone memorized the same material.  The poems in these books would have been commonly known (and therefore the reader would have known that Alice was getting them all mixed up!).

For more in-depth explanation and context of the poems recited in Alice In Wonderland, check out this article:

The Poems in Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Choose one poem from the book that Alice recites and find the correct version on the website above.  Write down both copies of the poems and see how mixed up Alice really was! 


Finished Reading? Consider This:

Let’s revisit the narrative arc.  Check out the pages in your binder that go over the narrative arc and fill in the blanks for the parts of the story you feel fit each part of the arc.

Do the worksheets on theme and common objects as a way to start understanding Alice in Wonderland a little bit better. I’ve included the written lesson again on Common Objects as symbolism tends to be a difficult concept to grasp.  It’s ok if it takes a while.  Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Time to Write:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seems like a fun, fanciful story, but did you get the deeper meaning behind Alice’s adventures?  Many people believe this is an allegory about the process of growing up.

 Check out your binder for the page “Discovering Allegory”.  Read through that and check out my example of the Three Little Pigs. 

Alice’s adventures are an allegory for the journey from childhood through adolescence. Just as a child’s life is filled with good and bad choices, Alice’s is, too. As most children do, she learns from her experiences and ultimately becomes more mature—emotionally, in how she deals with her problems, and in the way she perceives different situations, all of which are encompassed in the process of growing up.

Chose 1 of these writing topics:

1. Find some quotes from the beginning, middle, and end of the book that shows Alice’s progression from childlike thinking to more mature thinking.  Find 2 or 3 quotes for each stage of her development and write them down under the following categories.  Make sure you write the quote exactly from the book and write the page number where you found the quote:

Childlike Innocence – 2 or 3 quotes to represent that stage

Confused and Unsure Adolescent – 2 or 3 quotes to demonstrate that stage

Assured and Confident Person – 2 or 3 quotes to demonstrate that stage.  


2. Choose 1 chapter or scene within the story and create a storyboard to represent the allegory the scene is trying to convey. Like my example with the Three Little Pigs, be sure to include both the scene as well as the interpretation of the event through the lens of allegory.   

Watch the Movie:

There are several movies of Alice, so feel free to watch/rent whichever one interests you the most.  I feel the Disney version is closest to the book.

Before You Read:

Guess what, this book is about your own adventure in moving from childhood to adolescence and understanding yourself better.

This book also uses a lot of Alice In Wonderland references–so you can see why I had you read that book first!!

Here’s something I really want you to remember as you navigate this book.  It’s fun to learn about ourselves and others, but be careful not to attach too tightly to how the enneagram “types you”.  The enneagram types personalities–which are really just ways in which our ego’s form.

Our true selves are beyond ego.  Our true self (that part of us connected to God, abundance, joy, peace, and creativity) is different from the ego.  Our personality (ego) is just the way we’ve learned to cope with being human, so it’s important to learn about it and understand it.  But it’s also important not to stop there.  The goal is to grow beyond the ego into the true self.

While You Read:

Taylor had the card game that you are supposed to play that helps you pinpoint which enneagram personality you might be.  But apparently, she lost it, so I think you’ll have to take the test online.

Answer the questions considering your typical response to situations.  You’ll see they ask you the same questions in different ways so it can get a little redundant, but if you can get through it, it’s a fun little tool! 

Once you’ve narrowed down which ennegram type you might be, read up on your type to see if you can relate to some of the tendencies of that personality.

Check out other types and see what you think.  I’m a 9, Taylor has identified as a 4, and dad, I believe, is a 5 or 6…

See if those make sense to you, too!

Time to Write:

What do you think?  Write a few paragraphs about what you think your type is, what you learned that surprised you, what was helpful about this process along with what you liked and didn’t like about this process.

Before You Read:
While Your Reading:
Finished Reading? Consider This:
Time to Write:
Watch the Movie:

Before You Read:
While You Read:
Finished Reading? Consider This:
Time to Write:
Watch the Movie:


Before You Read:
While You Read:
Finished Reading? Consider This:

Let’s have some fun talking about Characterization and more specifically, Character Analysis.  Character Analysis is thinking more deeply about a character and how they are presented in the text.  There may be things they do, wear, or say repeatedly that give us an indication of what their personality is like.  We can analyze (or draw conclusions) about the character based on some of these outward things the character does, wears, says, etc.  


We are going to analyze the characters from The Tempest by creating Costume Designs for each of them.  Check out this video here where the teacher walks her students through the costume design of the characters in another Shakespeare play called “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

You can see that you can do this all on your computer, OR, you can do it by cutting out pictures and pasting and writing on the worksheet provided in your binder.  Either way, have some fun with this project and see if you can tell me more about the characters based on the costumes you design for them!

Time to Write:
Watch the Movie:

Before You Read:
While You Read:
Finished Reading? Consider This:
Time to Write:
Watch the Movie:

Actually, this is a mini-series on Prime.

Before You Read:
While You Read:
Finished Reading? Consider This:
Time to Write:
Watch the Movie:

An oldie!  You can only find this on Youtube: