Outside Reading- Help Wanted!


One of my favorite, and least favorite, things is making my students complete their outside reading requirements. Each semester they have to read a certain amount of pages (800 for my juniors this upcoming year) and complete some sort of accountability piece. I love playing Literary God: "yes, you may read Michael Chabon and Nick Hornby" and "no you may absolutely not read Stephanie Myers and no way is The Hunger Games going to work!" I also enjoy hearing them admit at the end of the year that they've found new authors to love and are finally getting the hang of determining what makes a book literary. I hate the grading part. With a passion.

In the past I've had my students complete a dialectical journal- one quote, with analysis, for every ten pages they've read. My rationale has been that it was the only way I could easily check to see if they've read- spacing out the quotes makes it harder to go online and just pull work off the internet. Unfortunately, this is incredibly tedious, both for the students to complete and for me to grade. This year I'm trying something new that will hopefully making grading easier for me- I'm going to provide the students with a list of thirty questions (when we go back in August) that they should be able to answer for each of the books they've read that semester. At the end of the term I'm going to take a few days and ask each student approximately five questions on the books they've read, in front of the class. Their grade on outside reading will be based on how well they've BSed answered and convinced me that they've read. I'm also giving them a "hot list"- a list of thirty books (I'll share those later after I've written my syllabus and can just copy and paste) that they will receive five extra credit points for choosing to read.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help me come up with challenging questions to give to my students that apply to either fictional and nonfictional texts (although mostly fiction). Nothing easy! No "If you could be one of the characters which one would you be and why?" nonsense. I'm talking more like "Choose an important symbol from the text and talk about how it contributed to a character's development" or "What were some unique aspects of the author's writing style? How did that impact your reading of the text?" 

Please and thank you. Extra credit for those questions that are used. Get down with your inner teacher. 


  1. Do you have a list yet? I don't mind helping if I've read any of the books.

    1. I'm just doing generic questions that could work on most books. Thanks!

  2. Explain how the setting contributed to either plot or character development.
    How did the protagonist evolve over the course of the story, and what are two events, one from the beginning, and one towards the end, that exemplify that development?