Eleven-year-old William has lost a lot in the past two months. His beloved grandpa recently passed away; his father moved out of the house; and William is left to pick up the pieces and deal with these difficult changes. That's when Riley, a large golden Labrador, bounds unexpectedly into his life and becomes his faithful companion. However, when Riley chases the neighbor's prize-winning horse, which is against the town law, William may lose yet another loved one. If William wants to save Riley from being put to sleep, he will have to summon all his courage and determination to win this fight.
Students will explore the art of persuasive writing as a form of response to literature. They will accomplish this learning goal through personal reflection, identifying persuasion techniques, and speech writing.
Standard: Writes persuasive compositions.
Ask students to write in their journals about the following:
- Have you ever tried to persuade someone?
- Who were you trying to persuade?
- What did you want?
- How did you persuade this person?
- What was the outcome?
Students should be detailed and explain their responses fully.
NOTE: The following activity should be done before the final chapters of the book are read.
Step 1: Invite students to share and discuss their ideas. Focus on "persuasion techniques," or the different methods we use to persuade others. For example, advertisements often rely on emotional language and repetition to sway the reader. Lawyers use persuasive arguments, facts, and evidence to convince the jurors of their position. Chart "Persuasion Techniques" with the class.
Step 2: Give the class this scenario: Imagine you are William. The only way to save your beloved dog Riley is to write a speech persuading the county commissioners to reverse their decision to put him to sleep. Your speech must be convincing enough to change their minds.
Step 3: Ask students to brainstorm at least three reasons why Riley should be saved before writing the speech. Explain that the three reasons will represent the main points in their speech. Remind them to use details and evidence from the book to support their points.
Step 4: Have students write their speeches using the "Persuasion Techniques" charted and discussed in Step 1. During the writing process, they will draft, revise, edit, and publish their pieces.
Step 5: Encourage students to deliver their speeches to the class.
Step 6: Finish the book and discuss the conclusion.
Other Books About Courageous Canines
Star in the Storm by Joan Hiatt Harlow
A young girl living in Newfoundland in 1912 must summon all her courage to protect her dog, Sirius.
The Good Dog by Avi
The enchanting story of a young boy and his dog, told from the unique point of view of his canine friend.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
A young girl moves to rural Florida with her preacher father and makes friends with a lovable dog. As she adapts to her new life, she learns about friendship and acceptance.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
A young boy living in the Ozarks becomes the owner of two dogs and teaches them to be champion hunters.
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Here is the classic, eloquently simple story of a boy and his dog in the Texas Hill Country. In this award-winning book, 14-year-old Travis comes to love the big ugly dog and learns something about the pain of life as well.
Sounder by William H. Armstrong
Life is filled with hard times and hunger for a young African-American boy surviving in the South during the 19th century. A compelling story about a boy, his family, and his loyal dog, Sounder.