Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Woodrow Wilson Summer Reading Explosaganza 2015!!!

Here, collected in one nice, neat location are all of the summer reading assignments for the English Department at Woodrow Wilson High School for Summer 2015. As always, any unabridged copy you are able to pick up is perfectly fine, new or used, so don't be thrown off by differences in covers. Students are required to read the selected texts over the summer before school resumes in anticipation of the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Incoming Freshmen: All freshmen should anticipate a graded discussion of the assigned novel(s) as well as a traditional written test. All freshmen will read:

Pre-AP/Pre-IB Freshmen will read Davis' Spare Parts AND one of the following:

  • An Abundance of Katherines,  by John Green
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,  by Mark Haddon
  • Deadline,  by Chris Crutcher
  • Mexican White Boy,  by Matt de la Pena
  • Stupid Fast,  by Geoff Herbach

Incoming Sophomores: All sophomores should anticipate a guided discussion of the text as well as a traditional written test on the material. Mr. Maddox's website with the summer assignment can be accessed by clicking here. All sophomores will read:


Pre-AP/Pre-IB Sophomores will read Hillenbrand's Unbroken AND one of the following
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Sun also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Tess of d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

Incoming Juniors:

On-level Juniors:

IB English 3:

AP English 3:

IB Film Juniors:

Incoming Seniors:

AP English 4:
  • AP Lit students should anticipate a graded Socratic seminar on the first novel and a more traditional test on the second one. Mr. Black's website can be found by clicking here.

IB English 4:
  • Both of these works must be read in their entirety when you come back in August. Expect a Socratic Seminar or two (with the possibility of a more traditional reading-check test). Mr. Lundberg's website can be found by clicking here.

IB Film Seniors:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

AP English III Summer Reading 2015 ***Updated***

My personal and professional opinion of assigned summer reading is that it should be a lot like summer romance: short and sweet, and maybe just a little bit torrid. The selected texts were chosen specifically because they meet these criteria, and because I like them.

Please note that students (ie, incoming AP English juniors at Woodrow Wilson) should have both novels read and the assignment completed by the start of the fall semester 2015-2016; students should further anticipate that there will be a diagnostic exam based on the material for the purpose of figuring out approximately your skill level and potential needs.


AP English III:

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

This is O'Brien's third book about his experiences in the Vietnam War. A collection of short stories, this book blurs the line between "story truth" and "happening truth." It is an extraordinary book that will really get into your head and make you ponder the nature of war, heroism, cowardice, and value of humanity.
One of these short stories has been made into a movie, but it's a Kiefer Sutherland film, and that may or may not turn you off. If you really like the idea of telling the truth of the matter vs. telling the fact of the matter, then you really need to watch Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon. It's an amazing pairing with this book, really.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the second novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid, and it is not the story you anticipate. I will fully admit that I was skeptical upon opening the book, but I was quickly disabused of any concerns--in fact, I couldn't put it down. A political thriller, this novella is a classic story of post-9/11 disillusionment with the American Dream and all its wretched excess. It's an awful lot like The Great Gatsby, but Baz Luhrmann hasn't messed it up yet. Part-spy-thriller, part-romance, this story will make you think.



Incoming AP juniors will write an original rhetorical precis for each of the novels they have read this summer.

What is a precis? 

A precis is a highly structured four sentence paragraph that records the essential elements of a unit of spoken or written discourse, including the name of the speaker/writer, the context of the delivery, the major assertion, the mode of development and/or support, the stated and/or apparent purpose, and the relationship established between the speaker/writer and the audience. Each of the four sentences requires specific information; students are also encouraged to use brief quotations to convey a sense of style and tone.

What is the format of a precis?
  1.  Name of author, [optional: a phrase describing author], genre and title of work date in parentheses (additional publishing information in parentheses or note); a rhetorically accurate verb (such as "assert," "argue," suggest," "imply," "claim," etc.); and a THAT clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work.
  2.  An explanation of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis, usually in chronological order.
  3.  A statement of the author's apparent purpose followed by an "in order" phrase.
  4.  A description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience.
When is it due?
This assignment is due the Friday of the first week of school.
Questions, comments, or concerns?
Please feel free to drop me a line at with your inquiry, and I will reply at my earliest convenience.

I have been asked about providing an example of a precis. Oregon State has a pretty good one, and it can be found by clicking here; however, an entire world of examples can be found by clicking here. Good luck!

IB Film Summer Assignment 2015

  1. WATCH SOME MOVIES! Keep a journal on everything you watch. No, really, every movie. Not just the ones you go to an actual movie theater but also ones you might watch at home. If it's the first time you've seen that movie, journal it. Log the title, date, director, principal talent, and anything else that strikes you about the movie from a filmmaking point of view. While you're at it, review this short interview in terms of formatting your journal.
    • up to 7 minutes of dialogue and action
    • needs to be formatted as a script, not as a short story
    • will be "pitched" by you to the whole class during the first week of school
    • subject matter to be determined by you, but it must fit within the parameters of the final IB Film project

Your script will be due the first day of the first week of school. Period. No exceptions, unless it is a REALLY good one, and even then I reserve the right to call shenanigans and say no.


Actually, a short series of assignments:
  1.  Please read this short interview about American Cinema and film criticism. This should give you a fairly straightforward account of the way we will view and comment upon film in our class. It will also give you a model for how to complete the reflections that will be required of you for this summer assignment. Pay close attention to the commentary--both what they care to observe and how they comment upon it.
  2. WATCH SOME MOVIES! You must watch a total of ten (10) films over the summer. This part of the assignment is more enjoyable if you actually watch them with other people, perhaps your fellow film students or even <gasp!> your parental units. You will need to watch the following:
  3. Written Assignment: You will turn in a 250-300 word reflection for each film you watch, written within two days of seeing the film. This reflection should include a (very) brief summary of the film, including the year of release, the director’s name and the main characters’ and actors’ names. The rest of the reflection should discuss your analytical, interpretive and evaluative thoughts about the film. (Again, read the link above in #1 for an example of what I'm talking about.)
***(Ed.- I originally thought this went without saying, but try to watch movies that you have not seen before. I know it says that you can watch two films of your own free choice, but I was hoping that you might want to talk about films that only recently had been released. Ultimately, it's your option, but even if you sample something that you've tasted a thousand times, I hope that you'll look at it in a more critical light than that to which you are accustomed.)

The assignment will be due the Friday of the first week of school. Period. No exceptions, unless it is a REALLY good one, and even then I reserve the right to call shenanigans and say no.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Ask me! Feel free to comment with your questions, and I promise that I will reply. Or if you believe that your question is too radical or personal to ask publicly, feel free to drop me a line at:

Note: I will check my email and my blog often, but not necessarily more than daily (I do have things to do, after all). I promise to get back to you at my earliest convenience.