Washington's Secret Six is about the spy ring Washington used during the American Revolution. Until recently, not very much has been known about the ring, until some documents have been made available to the public in the last few years.
I used this as my summer reading assignment for my Honors American History. Almost all of these students are juniors. The reading is not hard, and most kids actually seemed to enjoy it. (By the way, if you've seen the AMC show "Turn," this is about that very topic.)
I wrote essay prompts for every couple of chapters of the book. Some I labeled as "short essay," and some I labeled "essay." In the handout, you'll see that I provided my own criteria for each, but of course that is easily modified.
I did my best to avoid "hunt and peck" questions. In other words, I didn't want questions which my students could scan for, find the answer to, and simply blow off the rest of the chapter. I know, I know, it's shocking, but sometimes students don't read what we tell them to. Anyway, questions were written to be a sort of blend of broad topics, which would require specific examples for students to reference in their answers. (See example download.)
Assignment includes (by the way my definition for "short" essay is 2-4 paragraphs.):
-Short essay prompt for Author's note, Preface, Introduction, and Chapter 1.
-Short essay prompt for chapters 2-3.
-Essay prompt for chapters 4-8.
-Short essay prompt for chapters 9-10.
-Essay prompt for chapters 11-15.
-Short essay prompt for chapters 16-18 and Epilogue.
-Book review short essay.
Personally, myself and the other American History teacher where I work, were very pleased with the results of this assignment. This was effective in getting students to think critically instead of mindlessly looking for answers to questions in a book, practice writing, and to of course read over the summer. Also, the book is enjoyable and deals with a topic which was, until recently, obscure.