Taking a Stand: Shiloh

Students grapple with how a person develops values, identities, and beliefs, and explore what it means to stand up for what you believe in, while reading and discussing the novel Shiloh.



Alternate Unit 1

4th Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students grapple with the overarching question of how a person develops values, identities, and beliefs while reading the novel Shiloh. Marty, the main character in Shiloh, sees someone mistreating a dog and thinks it’s his right and responsibility to step in to save the dog, even if the dog doesn’t belong to him. His action raises a question for readers about when an individual should step in to take a stand against what he/she believes to be an injustice. His action also causes readers to consider how different people, depending on their values, identities, and beliefs, may have different opinions on what constitutes an injustice. Students will be challenged to take a stand on both of these ideas, based on the experiences and opinions of the different characters in Shiloh. Students will also be exposed to the idea of courage, and what it means to show courage, especially in situations where you are standing up for what you believe in. It is our hope that this unit will inspire students to grapple with these questions at a deeper level and understand the power of showing courage to fight for the things they believe in, no matter what obstacles they may face.

Shiloh was chosen as the text for this unit not only because of the powerful themes, but because of how Phyllis Reynolds Naylor artfully develops the setting, characters, and plot. In this unit, students will be challenged to think deeply about how the details an author includes help a reader better understand a character. The setting of Shiloh in rural West Virginia in the 1970s allows students to deeply analyze how an author develops a setting, and how the setting of a text influences the characters.  

Throughout the unit, students prepare for class discussions, determining which evidence best supports a particular idea and how to elaborate on that evidence. By writing daily in response to the Target Task question, students build their writing fluency, seeing the power of writing as a tool for understanding what they are reading. This unit also serves as the foundation for learning how to brainstorm and write strong literary analysis/opinion paragraphs, focusing on drafting topic sentences and determining supporting details. At the end of the unit, students write a narrative continuation of the unit text. 

Please Note: In May 2023, we released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000)   —  890L


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.

Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

Essential Questions

  • How do beliefs, ethics, or values influence different people’s behaviors?
  • When should an individual take a stand against what he/she believes to be an injustice? What are the most effective ways to do this?
  • What does it mean to show courage?

Reading Focus Areas

  • Characters are dynamic and multi-faceted.

  • Characters can change over the course of a story.

  • Characterization can be direct or indirect.

  • Setting can influence character development.

Writing Focus Areas

Opinion Writing

  • Use single-paragraph outlines to brainstorm cohesive paragraphs.

  • Write strong topic sentences that clearly state an opinion.

  • Provide reasons to support a topic.

  • Link reasons using transition words and phrases.

  • Write concluding sentences.

Narrative Writing

  • Use relevant text details or background knowledge from the text to develop characters, ideas, or situations.

  • Brainstorm and draft a story with a logical sequence of events that unfolds naturally.

  • Use different strategies to start a story.

  • Use concrete words and descriptions to describe characters.

  • Use transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Prepare for discussion.

  • Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.

  • Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share thoughts.



abused ashamed bargain bawl bawling blackmail bold courage cringe decency depend disgusted dwell edgy enthusiasm flustered fond humble impact impatient influence infuriate intention jubilation licked mission mistreated obliged omission pester pitiful quarrel quavery remedy rehearsed scale shame snoop squeals stumped suspicions sympathy tense threats tremble unfasten whirls witness yelps

Literary Terms



-ful anti- im- mis- un-

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 7, view our 4th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards


Unit 2

Preparing for the Worst: Natural Disasters

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