Summer Assignment

Oakes College Core Course

Welcome to UC Santa Cruz and Oakes College! 

Over the summer, you will read an assigned book and complete a preliminary assignment for your Oakes Core Course, which will be due to your core course instructor on the first day of class. You will also review resources to assist in your transition to college, especially in context of remote learning conditions. Please read through all of the following material carefully, and complete the assignments according to the instructions provided below.

You should complete all the steps in this assignment, even if you have questions. In the Fall, part of what we will discuss will be how you made sense of the instructions on your own. Oakes staff and faculty will not be available to answer inquiries about the summer assignment until Fall 2020 instruction begins. Once classes start, you may address any questions you have to your Core instructor. 

Before you begin, please read the entire assignment, so that you can gauge how long it will take. (Hint: this is a large project, start now!!!) 

What You Need Now

  • Over the summer, you will read Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2020.  ISBN: 978-1620971932). Purchase a print copy of this book through the The Bay Tree Bookstore or through online sources such as,, or at a local bookstore. If you purchase a digital version of the book, use an online program of your choice to make digital annotations (that is, notes) to the text as you read to complete the assignment below.
  • Before you start the The New Jim Crow, read the New York Times June 8th op-ed, “America, This Is Your Chance” by Alexander.
  • A Summer Assignment Reading Journalthis should be digital!
  • Annotation tools (color sticky tabs, pen, or pencilplease avoid highlighters!)

 What You Will Learn

  • The social injustice of systemic structures of racism and classism in mass incarceration
  • The connection between mass incarceration and the current protests and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement
  • How to engage with a full-length academic text
  • The best way for YOU to approach annotation
  • How to navigate Canvas
  • How to use Zoom for UCSC classes on Canvas
  • Tips to Succeed in College

What You Will Do

  • Read “America, This Is Your Chance” and The New Jim Crow. This will take time, start NOW!
  • Complete the Annotation Assignment as you readallow ample time to engage with the assignment!
  • Review all Student Success Materials

Annotation Assignment

Before the first day of fall quarter, you need to have finished the reading and completed the accompanying note-taking and writing assignments. Many of the themes and issues we will discuss, read about, and explore in the Oakes Core Course are grounded in Alexander’s book. Furthermore, the historical moment we are living through this summer, in the context of Black Lives Matter activism and awareness, offers so much immediate and urgent context for Alexander’s analysis of systemic racial oppression.

As you read The New Jim Crow this summer, try to be attuned to how its ideas and issues connect to events in our current news cycle. 

Collect Current News Stories

In your summer reading journal, create a list of at least five current news articles that relate to Alexander’s materialand be sure to document how to access them!

  • Your articles can be from a respected local newspaper, a national newspaper (such as The New York Times), or from an online newspaper or periodical.  
  • Choose two articles from your list—summarize them separately and explain their relevance or connection to the ideas and issues covered in the book. 
  • You should also include some reflection on how you are impacted or involved with or aware of any activism around systemic racial oppression this summer. Feel free to include embedded photos and personal reflection in this section of your journal. Is the text helping you to see or understand your life, the larger social world around you, and the specific events of this summer in new ways?

Reading/Writing Assignments

Completed assignment is due the first day of class in Canvas. 

During your core course, we will develop skills for college-level reading and note-taking. Below is a series of exercises to introduce you to some of those skills, starting with "annotation" or writing notes in the margins of texts (that is, books or articles). Annotating is a common practice that helps the reader to stay in conversation with the author and engage in the broader issues discussed in that text.

  • Reading Journal: As you read, keep a reading journal. Your reading journal should be a digital document that you will be able to submit to your instructor through Canvas—use Google docs or Word or a similar program. Record your notes, observations, reactions, questions, and terms from the book. Take pictures of 10 of your best annotations (see explanation below—draw them from different chapters) and embed them in your reading journal, explaining your thought process and expanding on your in-text annotations. You will also complete the other assignments below as part of your reading journal. You should be ready to submit your reading journal to Canvas on the first day of instruction—you will receive credit for your completion of this assignment. 
  • Pre-reading questions: As you read the introduction, generate 4-6 questions that you predict Alexander will explain through the rest of the book. As you read, consider how she responds to or develops these questions. Include these questions and your reflections to them in your reading journal.
  • In-text annotations: Read The New Jim Crow all the way through, annotating and taking notes for each chapter directly in the text itself (in the margins). Avoid just highlighting. Instead, as you read, keep a pen or pencil in hand, and jot down what you want or need to remember, the questions you want to pose, as well as your initial response or interpretation. Your annotations will help you read more efficiently and powerfully and prepare you for class discussion. As you read the book, try out all of these annotation strategies:
    1. Write notes on the pages themselves.
    2. Use colored tabs or sticky notes to flag key quotations and passages.
    3. Talk to the text as you read, recording your reactions and thoughts, and posing questions to Alexander (the author) and yourself in the margins.
    4. Use a personal code system. For example, circle key terms or words you don’t know or that are confusing; underline particularly important lines; put question marks next to passages you have questions about; bracket or highlight passages that generate a strong positive or negative response.
    5. Write questions or comments where you made annotations to remind yourself what you were thinking. 

Experiment with all of these techniques by using a different one for each of the first three chapters, and combine all of them as you read the introduction and Chapters 4 through 6. Reflect on which method seems to work best for you. See questions in “Focused Reading Response” below. 

  • Chapter Summaries: For each chapter, write a short (half a page) summary in your reading journal of the themes that resonate throughout the text, and the main points or concepts. Briefly explain how the main point(s) of each chapter helps to explain concepts raised in the introduction of the text.
  • Focused-reading response: Select one chapter and write a focused-reading response that reflects in-depth on your reading experience and practices. Use the following questions to guide your response: 
    1. Logistics of Reading: How long did it take you to read the chapter? Was your reading speed the same in all the sections of the chapter? Did it shift according to material? What were you doing as you read? How did what you were doing affect how you read? And how did it affect how well you understood the text?
    2. Annotation: How did you annotate and keep notes? Because you will be turning in your reading journal but not your annotated text, it will be helpful if you photocopy or embed relevant images of your annotated text in this portion of your reading journal. What kind of information did you annotate and take notes on? Chapter thesis? Facts? Key terms? Key questions? Interesting/surprising ideas? Confusing points? 
    3. Reflection: What kinds of questions were you asking as you read? What larger issues outside the text were coming to mind as you read?
    4. Evaluation of Technique: What was most helpful in understanding and retaining key information? What reading and note taking practices have you used in this assignment that you find helpful? Did you try out any new strategies?  What strategies are most useful? Why? What strategies are not productive? Why? What will you change about your reading strategies, having completed this assignment? 
    5. Final Questions: What questions do you have about college level reading?

Preparing to Be a Successful College Student

Important UCSC Resources

Read through the following links and watch the embedded videos to prepare for the challenging transition from high school to college. This transition will be unique this year as most of your instruction will be remote. In the Fall, we will certainly talk about strategies and best practices for success in remote-learning courses. 

Before the first class, review the following: 

  1. Introduction to Canvas in the Canvas Overview.
  2. Instruction in Oakes Core, like most classes in fall 2020, will take place through the Zoom platform. You will access the Core Class through your UC Zoom account. 
  3. Please visit this page for advice and best practices on how to succeed in an online course.

Other Important Resources

These are brief selections from academic success centers at other universities, and they include further reading and links to information about preparing for midterms and finals, taking notes on assigned readings, and working against procrastination, among other topics. 

Read this information and refer back to it over the course of your first year as a college student.