This teacher's guide, which focuses on the book A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin, challenges students to create stories from a first- or third-person point of view, make plot decisions, and examine the author's writing process.
- Make choices, from a first-person perspective, to drive the plot of a story
- Give explanations for choices they make as they develop a story
- Use the sequence of events on their story maps and explanations for their choices to tell a story from the first-person point of view
- Bookmark A Dog's Life: A Flashlight Readers Activity on the computers students will use. Note: If students have limited access to computers, print copies of the activity screens for students to use and set up a projector for class viewing.
- Optional: If you are planning to do the first Lesson Extension activity, make a class set of the Venn Diagram printable.
Step 1: Help students recall the different kinds of dog "rescues" experienced by Squirrel in the story. They might page through a copy of A Dog's Life to help them recall some of the instances. Encourage them to include not only the families that Squirrel lived with, but also her experiences with people who wanted to help, such as the women who left food for stray dogs in the supermarket parking lot. In what ways were these rescues helpful to Squirrel? How were they hurtful?
Step 2: Tell students that some dogs, like Squirrel and Bone, were born strays. Others become stray dogs because they were "thrown" away, neglected, or left ownerless for other reasons. To share an example of the latter, share the article "Dog Savior" from A Dog's Life: A Flashlight Readers Activity. You can gather students around a computer, or use a projector so that the whole class can see and read along.
Step 3: Discuss with students why the work Mike Malloy does, as explained in "Dog Savior," is so important. Tell them that a number of organizations exist to rescue dogs and help place them in loving homes. Invite small groups of students to go to the computer to explore the websites in Dog Lovers Get Involved from A Dog's Life: A Flashlight Readers Activity to learn about some of these organizations and what they do, as well as to learn about what they might do as individuals to adopt a pet or be the best owner possible for their pet. Afterward, call the class together to talk about what students learned.
Step 4: Steer the discussion back to the story. Tell students that each time a human tried to help or rescue Squirrel, the event affected the plot of the story. Ask them to give some examples of how these rescue events helped drive the story plot. For example, Squirrel's needs were taken care of when the Beckers were attentive to her, but when they became neglectful, Squirrel had to return to surviving on her own again. After sharing, explain that the events, or plot, of a story are often determined by the choices made by the main or supporting characters. Remind students that, in reading A Dog's Life, they know how Squirrel's life turned out. But what do they think happened to Bone after the woman left with him? Did he stay with the woman? Or did he break away and continue living as a stray? Is he happy? Does he have friends, or is he a loner? Invite students to share their thoughts.
Step 5: Explain that in the next activity, students will pretend they are Bone. As Bone, they'll make choices that determine different events in his story, the adventures he has, and how his story ends.
Step 6: Gather students around a computer, or use a projector to project Bone Travels On from A Dog's Life: A Flashlight Readers Activity for the whole class to see. Then introduce the activity, review its objective, and read the instructions together. Explain that students will make choices by looking at options from Bone's point of view. The choices they make will help drive the plot of Bone's story and determine the next set of actions he has to choose from. At the end of the story, a map of Bone's travels will be generated and students will have the opportunity to give reasons for their choices. When finished, they can print out their map and explanations.
Step 7: To demonstrate how to play the game, read the first screen for Bone Travels On. Then click the Start button to advance to the beginning of the story. Read the screen and click Continue. The next screen describes a situation and then asks "Bone" to make a choice. Select the button next to your choice and click Continue. Proceed through the story in this way until you reach The End. On the last screen, click the button to see a map of your travels. When the map appears, each choice in Bone's adventure will be mapped out and numbered. Show students how they can select each text box on the map to review their choices and explain why they made that choice. When finished, click print and show students the resulting map and list of explanations.
Step 8: Have students work individually through Bone Travels On to create a map of Bone's Adventures. Encourage students to think about why they make the choices they do as they progress through the screens. Also, have them think about how their choices might affect the next event in the story and the overall plot.
Step 9: After students have completed their adventures, instruct them to click on each text box on the map and type in the reason they made that particular choice. Before they move on to the next text box, ask them to review their explanation for correct spelling and grammar. Then have them print out their maps and explanations.
Step 10: Finally, pair up students and have them take turns telling their story to each other. Remind them that they should tell the story as if they are Bone and encourage them to use their map and explanations as guides.
- Distribute copies of the Venn Diagram printable to students. Ask them to label one circle "Life as a Stray," the other circle "Life with a Loving Owner," and the overlapping section "Both." Then have students use their diagrams to compare Squirrel's experiences as a stray to her life with Susan. Ask them to write any similarities in Squirrel's experiences in the overlapping section of the diagram. When finished, invite students to share their diagrams with the class.
- Invite students to work in small groups to create posters that promote responsible pet ownership or raise awareness of pet adoption opportunities. Encourage them to feature a pet on the poster and include text from that animal's point of view. For example, a group might feature a dog mascot with a speech bubble over its head labeled "Help save others like me — adopt a pet today!" Display the posters on a classroom bulletin board.
- Invite students to write an expanded story, from the first-person perspective, using their Bone's Travels maps and decision points. After writing, encourage them to revise their work based on feedback from self- and peer-edit reviews.
Informally assess students' reading comprehension by observing them as they make choices and give reasons for their decisions. Conduct a follow-up session with students who seem to have difficulty making and explaining their choices. Afterward, encourage these students to play the game again.
Language Arts Standards (4th ed.)
- Establishes a purpose for reading (e.g., for information, for pleasure, to understand a specific viewpoint)
- Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
- Understands the basic concept of plot (e.g., main problem, conflict, resolution, cause-and-effect)
- Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes