Last year I read the most wonderful story by Amy Cranmer, called “Gunny and the Magical Pack,” about an abused dog who overcomes a treacherous personal journey. This story is so special to me because the author and main character, Gunny, live right here in my own town of Charlotte, NC. See how our community shares his story in this video clip.
Not only that, but the story is so touching and my students responded to it with so much empathy that I vowed to pass the book on to all 5 of my nephews and read it every year with each of my classes!
So, this year I decided to write a post more for the teachers out there. Hope you find it helpful and please share with me what you have done as well!
Welcome to the Teacher Zone:
I began by introducing the book in a bending “every rule about good literacy instruction” kind of way. I say that because most of the time teachers complete a picture walk with students, read the summary blurb on the back of the book, locate any reviews written about it, etc. Nope, not me. I knew that if I previewed the book for the students they would know too much of the story line and not be as “hooked” as I read each word of this powerful story. (Lesson learned- the benefit of reading books multiple times is I learn how to do it better each time!)
I had students set up their notebooks into 6 sections for each chapter. I read the chapter titles aloud and students mouths began to drop. They instantly knew this was not a happy story about a cute little dog based on the wording of the titles. (Cha ching! success in “hooking” them!)
We read the entire book in one week (could have been one day if I let them) and completed the following activities:
1) I needed to see if students could retell the story in correct sequence. So we used a time line! Students were able to STAR important events that had a significant impact on the plot development.
2) Students then gathered together in mini book clubs to discuss the book. Ideally, each student should have a copy of their own book, but due to limited resources and the fact that the book is short enough for students to mentally retain all of the details with little confusion, they met without a book in front of them. We rotated for 15 min discussions so students could gather multiple view points and jot their book club notes on the following form :
3) One of the trickiest skills for students is to identify the author’s purpose for writing a selection. Students created a P.I.E.E. chart on their paper and labeled it accordingly (persuade, inform, entertain, explain). They then decided the purpose of Amy’s book by explaining their thoughts:
4) We have discussed character traits throughout each of our read-aloud texts this year, it only seemed appropriate to assign some to Gunny!
5) As we closed up the unit, we needed to now share our knowledge with others. So, students created posters to inform the community about the effects of dog fighting and shared their ideas on how to help!
6) Before we could officially close out the unit, students created cards to send to Gunny to praise him for his courageous attitude and perseverance!
Gunny received our cards and LOVED them! Amy wrote us back and even gave us free book marks! She later sent us some awards from Gunny! I chose two students who showed courage, compassion and perseverance, just like Gunny!
We truly fell in love with Gunny (AGAIN!) and his heroic story. I hope all teachers and parents out there take a moment to read this book with your family members and students. It really puts life into perspective and makes you thankful for all the blessings you have.
Please join in the fight to help end illegal dog fighting and cruelty to animals!