We spend about two weeks with the book doing a variety of activities. 1. As students read the book they write a series of letters to me giving their reactions, raising questions, exploring their thoughts. I read the letters and respond, so we have an ongoing dialogue about it. This gives them a chance to say what they really think without exposing their ideas to anyone but me. (I initially had them use a journal format but found these responses very general. The letters brought out much more personal and individual response to the material. In future classes I may have them choose someone other than me to write to, even Ishmael himself if they want.) 2. They spend several class periods working in groups to develop lists of questions they have about Ishmael and things they learned from reading the book. These lists are written out on newsprint and become the basis for our class discussion. 3. For the final part of the assignment I ask them to write an essay, then work in peer groups to help each other with the organization and development of their ideas through several drafts. Their first drafts, peer group responses, and final papers are all turned in to me.