"Shiloh," Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's award-winning novel about a boy named Marty who rescues a beagle from its abusive owner, is a story of friendship that elementary school students can easily relate to. Tapping into their own experiences with pets and friends through class activities allows students practice their reading skills and better understand the book's message. Creative writing, research and art can all make reading "Shiloh" a memorable reading experience for children.
Marty's Memory Book
One thing that makes "Shiloh" a unique story is that it's told in first person present tense, letting readers experience Marty's journey with Shiloh as it unfolds. Ask students to imagine that after the book's action concludes, Marty decides to make a scrapbook of his experiences. As a class, you can identify the most important scenes from the book's plot. Students can then illustrate these memorable moments in their scrapbooks and write captions for the pictures in Marty's voice, explaining what's happening in the picture and how he felt at that point in the book.
To Tell the Truth
To protect Shiloh from his abusive owner, Judd Travers, Marty hides Shiloh and keeps him a secret from his family, even though it means lying to them. Assign students to write an essay about a time that they kept a secret from a friend or family member. They can describe what the secret was and what their reasons were for keeping it, as well as any consequences they faced for their choices. Then, they can write about how Marty's decision to hide Shiloh affects the way they view their own experiences and whether they think he made the right choice.
Meet the Pets
In "Shiloh," Marty learns what it means to love, care for and protect an animal. Help students forge a personal connection to his story by making pet profile posters for their own favorite animals. Ask them to bring pictures of their pets to school to glue on the posters. Then, they can list fun facts about their pets, such as their favorite foods and any special tricks they can do. They can also make a list of things they do to care for their pets, just like Marty does for Shiloh. If students don't have pets, allow them to imagine pets they wish they owned and design posters for them.
All About Beagles
Shiloh is a beagle, a breed known for its hunting instincts, friendly nature and signature howl. Do some research on beagles as a class and make a list of their characteristics, as well as words the students might use to describe them. Then, brainstorm reasons why Phyllis Reynolds Naylor may have chosen for Shiloh to be a beagle instead of another dog breed. You might consider Shiloh's actions as a character in the story, the reasons why Judd mistreats him and the role Shiloh eventually comes to play in Marty's family.
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