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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
A riff is a series of notes or chords played in response to a different riff that comes before it. To do it well, you have to be a pretty good and creative musician; otherwise, the listener will walk out or shut you off pretty darn quick—but there are some ways that even a beginning musician can hang with a great one as long as they stay in key and play patterns of chords or notes in the same family as the initial riff.
We are going to try this when reading Thoreau.
Thoreau remains among the best writers in history simply because he is like the Jerry Garcia of writers. His thinking, while progressive for its day was remarkably similar to other great thinkers in town, like Emerson, Alcott, and Channing to name a few—but the way he crafted those thoughts is nothing short of amazing and remains just as amazing to this day. Thoreau can take almost any thought and give it wings to fly and even soar above and beyond the comparative mediocrity of other writers. I personally think that Thoreau’s good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson is the better thinker, but great as he is, he is no match for Thoreau when it comes to turning a phrase—or creating a riff, so to speak.
To torture the metaphor further, we are going to read Thoreau with our guitars in hand by crafting responses to a series of his paragraphs in Walden as prep-work for writing our own essays about living life deliberately in the tiny house you designed. Practicing greatness is the only way to become great. So that is what we will do.
This Week:
Class One: Present your progress on your tiny house design, detailing its design, describing the “place” you will live and summarising the necessary things you will “need” for your year.
Using iBooks, read the section “Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity.”
Highlight the best sentence or sentences from each paragraph
Write a brief note for each paragraph that tries to restate what Thoreau is saying in each paragraph. This your “riff.”
Class Two: 
Harkness discussion and sharing of thoughts about “Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity.”
Read “Frivolous Lives” together in class and practice riffing.
Write a three paragraph journal reflection on the section “Seeking a Better Life.”
Use the rubric attached to the assignment in iTunes U and post to your blog
Classes Three and Four:
Begin Your Own “Seeking a Better Life” essay by creating an essay map and three body paragraphs.
Weekend Homework:
Work on Essay using the Persuasive Essay Rubric
Turn in to iTunes U and post to your blog before the second class period next week. This date may be moved depending on our progress.
I hope it sounds fun. It should be enlightening and rewarding–and it could make a GREAT secondary school essay example!