High School Microcourses


Introduction to Argument: Writing About Literature
Reading and Writing About Informational and Literary Nonfiction
Retellings: Analyzing Stories Across Time
Reading and Writing Reports of Information
Reading and Writing Across Multiple Texts

Introduction to Argument: Writing About Literature

This microcourse is divided into two parts. In Part 1, "Launching Independent Reading," the sessions are designed to help teachers set up an independent reading initiative that will guide students' self-selected reading over the year. These lessons focus largely on helping students begin their independent reading work and include instruction related to choosing texts to read, goal setting, and documentation, including reading logs. Part 2 is designed as a re-introduction to interpretation and argument. Here, students wrestle with short fiction as they revisit the practice of crafting text-based arguments distinguished by clear claims and supported by compelling explanations anchored in specific evidence from the text. The short fiction work is scaffolded with carefully integrated cycles of close reading, writing, and small- and large-group discussion. 

Grade 9Foundations for Inquiry (O'Connor and Canin)
Grade 10Foundations for Inquiry (Baxter and Didion)
Grade 11Foundations for Inquiry (Jones and Hempel)
Grade 12Foundations for Inquiry (Lahiri and Gordimer)

Reading and Writing About Informational and Literary Nonfiction

Each microcourse contains two units. In the first unit, students work with thematically linked pairs of complex informational texts to determine the central ideas and to analyze how they unfold over the course of a text. Students also work to describe and understand the language and methods writers employ to develop content. In the second unit, students work with complex literary nonfiction to build the skills and tenacity acquired only by encounters with difficult texts. In both units, students experience sequences of reading, writing, and discussion specifically designed to ensure support, engagement, and success as they write explanatory essays and text-based arguments.

Grade   9Unit 1Reading Intelligence
Unit 2Dealing With Difficulty (Church and Tocqueville)
Grade 10Unit 1Language and Thought
Unit 2Dealing With Difficulty (McPherson and Plato)
Grade 11Unit 1Bias and Assumption in Research
Unit 2Dealing With Difficulty (Winthrop and Ross)
Grade 12Unit 1Science Writing for Lay Audiences
Unit 2Dealing With Difficulty (Orwell and Montaigne)

Reading and Writing Reports of Information

In this microcourse series, students read and imitate texts by some of the smartest and most engaging contemporary researchers and writers. These studies share the same basic elements: There is a central text studied for content and ideas, which is also studied as a model for research-based report writing. In Part 1 of the unit, students work through cycles of close reading, paying careful attention to 1) the author’s ideas and arguments; and 2) the author’s methods for research and writing, including text structure. In Part 2, students tackle substantial and carefully scaffolded research-based report writing projects where they “try out” the methods observed in the models and write texts like the ones they studied.

Grade 9Tracing Cultural Influences: A Study of Research-Based Report Writing
Grade 10Models and Methods for Research
Grade 11Spreading Innovations: Study and Research
Grade 12How We Learn: Research-Based Writing Projects

Retellings: Analyzing Stories Across Time

Italian novelist Umberto Eco said, "Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told." This microcourse series is designed around that notion of retellings - the idea that authors draw upon and transform stories that have already been told and, in the process, create new meanings. The work sketched out in this unit is inquiry-based and places a strong emphasis on re-reading, writing, discussion, and collaboration as students work to read and write texts that are challenging and insightful.

Grade 9The Icarus Tales
Grade 10The Demon Lover
Grade 11Interpreting Tennessee Williams:  A Streetcar Named Desire
Grade 12Shakespeare at the Movies: Much Ado About Nothing

Reading and Writing Across Multiple Texts

An individual is literate in proportion to his or her ability to do work with and across texts that grapple with ideas that matter. These studies invite students to wrestle with problems created and solved by language. “Borderlands,” bilingualism, and the problems and promises inherent in documentary work are the focus of these multi-text studies in which students read complex texts and write arguments, narratives, reportage, and essays. Whether writing their own “borderlands” stories, locating themselves in the bilingualism debate, or tackling their own documentary project, students engage in text-based discussions about complex issues and then compose texts that permit them an active, “insider’s view” on the topics. All studies are marked by sequences of close reading, text-based writing, and collaborative discussion.

Grade 9Borderlands: Theories and Stories
Grade 10Language Matters: Essays and Arguments
Grade 11Writing to Witness, Writing to Testify
Grade 12Being and Unbeing: A Study of Four Poets