4th Grade Literature

Unit 1: Shiloh

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Unit Summary

In this unit, scholars begin to 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. Scholars will be challenged to take a stand on both of these ideas, based on the experiences and opinions of the different characters in Shiloh. Scholars 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 scholars 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 the way in which Phyllis Reynolds Naylor artfully develops the setting, characters and plot. In this unit, scholars will be challenged to think deeply about how the details an author includes help a reader better understand a character’s thoughts and actions. The setting of Shiloh in rural West Virginia in the 1970s allows scholars to deeply analyze how an author develops setting, and how the setting of a text influences the characters.  Finally, scholars will begin to notice how the point of view of a story influences the way a story is told. 

Texts and Materials

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

  • Reading Standards for Literature
    • RL.4.1 — Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
    • RL.4.3 — Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
    • RL.4.6 — Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
    • RL.4.10 — By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4—5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
  • Reading Standards: Foundational Skills
    • RF.4.3 — Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
    • RF.4.3.a — Use combined knowledge of all letter-sound correspondences, syllabication patterns, and morphology (e.g., roots and affixes) to read accurately unfamiliar multisyllabic words in context and out of context.
    • RF.4.4 — Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
    • RF.4.4.a — Read on-level text with purpose and understanding.
  • Writing Standards
    • W.4.1 — Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
    • W.4.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
    • W.4.8 — Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
    • W.4.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
    • W.4.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
  • Speaking and Listening Standards
    • SL.4.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • SL.4.2 — Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
    • SL.4.6 — Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
  • Language Standards
    • L.4.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • L.4.1.f — Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
    • L.4.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • L.4.2.a — Use correct capitalization.
    • L.4.2.d — Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.
    • L.4.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
    • L.4.4.a — Use context (e.g., definitions, examples, or restatements in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
    • L.4.4.b — Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
    • L.4.4.c — Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.
    • L.4.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
    • L.4.5.c — Demonstrate understanding of words by relating them to their opposites (antonyms) and to words with similar but not identical meanings (synonyms).
    • L.4.6 — Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
  • 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?
  • Why is it important to always believe in yourself?

Key Understandings?

  • Characters are developed through details that reveal their actions, thoughts, feelings, motivations, and relationships with others. 
  • As a story progresses and authors are able to develop characters in more depth, initial theories and understandings about a particular character may change. 
  • Characters behave in a way that fits with the norms, attitudes, beliefs, and routines of a particular setting. The conflict and plot fits with what makes sense for the setting, and characters often talk with a dialect common for the particular location. Understanding setting is important for understanding the sequence of events and characters.  
  • Point of view focuses on the type of narrator used to tell the story. 
    • A first-person narrator’s perspective is typically developed by giving his/her inner thoughts, actions, and dialogue. The thoughts the narrator thinks, words the narrator says, and actions the narrator takes can demonstrate the narrator's perspective on whatever is taking place in the story.
  • Perspective focuses on how this narrator or character perceives what is happening within the story based on what they know and what they reveal
    • Perspective is “who knows what” in the story. The author purposefully controls the flow of information to characters, even to the reader, for a reason. Different characters and/or the reader may be aware of certain knowledge that is hidden to others.
  • Point of view helps us determine the character’s perspective by limiting or granting the reader's knowledge about the plot, who knows what, and providing different types of details or clues to help us determine a character’s perspective.

This unit focuses on building a deeper understanding of character, setting and point of view. Students will be challenged to develop theories about characters over the course of the novel, noticing how initial understandings change and evolve as the plot progresses. Students will also begin to analyze and discover the role setting plays in a text, and how setting influences the way characters act. Finally, this unit serves as a launch into point of view. Shiloh is written in the first-person point of view. Therefore, this text serves as a launch into what it means for a text to be written in the first-person point of view and how that influences a character’s perspective.

See our Writing Rubric as a resource to provide feedback on student writing.

Writing Rubric: View Rubric

Narrative Writing Focus Areas?

  • Introduces characters and setting
  • Uses a logical organizational structure that fits the task
  • Uses paragraphs to support sequence
  • Uses relevant text details to develop characters, ideas and situations

This unit culminates with a week-long dive into narrative writing in which scholars write the next chapter of Shiloh. Scholars will be exposed to the structure of narrative writing and how to write narratives in response to a literary text. This project sets the groundwork for future narrative writing. 

Literary Analysis Writing Focus Areas?

  • (Evidence) Brainstorms a variety of evidence in order to make theories about an idea
  • (Central idea) Makes a potential claim that connects to the topic and shows understanding of the key details 
  • (Central idea) Revises claims to reflect new evidence and understanding

The focus for literary analysis writing in this unit is on helping students understand the power of gathering and interpreting evidence before answering a question. Over the course of the unit scholars will gather evidence about Marty in order to deepen their understanding of who he is as a character. These lessons will help scholars realize that in order create claims that can be defended and explained, they need to have a deep understanding of the entire text. 

The focus for daily target task writing should be on evidence gathering, interpretation, and writing strong potential claims. Scholars should not be pushed to write paragraphs until they have a deep understanding of the thought process necessary for drafting and creating strong ideas.

Language Writing Focus Areas?

  • Recognizes and corrects fragments
  • Recognizes and corrects run-on sentences
  • Produces complete sentences 
  • Uses correct capitalization and spelling (L4.2.A, L4.2D)

The main language focus of this unit is on producing complete sentences. In the first half of the unit, scholars will review the key components of a complete sentence and practice producing complete sentences. In the second half of the unit, scholars will begin to work on recognizing and correcting fragments and run-on sentences. The lessons provided in this unit serve as a launch for exploring complete and incomplete sentences. Scholars will need continuous and targeted feedback in order to master writing with complete sentences, and editing to fix fragments and run-ons. 

Note: There are no specific lessons included for capitalization and spelling. Both of these teaching points should be reinforced during student conferences and feedback. All students should be scored on capitalization and spelling on each writing assignment.

Phonics and Word Recognition Focus Areas?

  • Uses syllabication rules to sound out and tackle new words
  • Uses prefixes and suffixes to determine the meaning of new words 

As part of the vocabulary routine for this unit scholars will practice using syllabication patterns to break down vocabulary words. Scholars will practice identifying the number of syllables and use knowledge of syllabication patterns to explain how they determined the number of syllables. Scholars will also practice breaking down words using known affixes to determine the meaning of unknown words. A sample routine is included in lesson 4 and 18, however, this vocabulary and word-work routine should take place daily.

Fluency Focus Areas?

  • Reads with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage 
  • Uses proper intonation to show interpretation of the passage 
  • Uses dialect with smoothness and accuracy
  • Reads with a rate appropriate to task and purpose

The main focus of this unit is on reading with expression, particularly character dialogue, in order to show understanding of the text. In Shiloh, Marty’s dialogue, particularly when talking with Judd, reveals a lot about his motivations, feelings, and perspectives. A fluent reader should change his/her voice and intonation in order to match the mood/feelings of the characters. Marty also speaks with a dialogue typical of the setting and time period. Reading the dialect with correct intonation and expression emphasizes a reader's’ understanding of the plot and characters.

Another important component of reading fluency in fourth grade is knowing how to change reading rate depending on task and purpose. When close reading a section of text, scholars should adjust their reading rate in order to do a deep analysis of the text. 

Suggested supports: 

  • Sections of chapters 1-4 of Shiloh should be read aloud in order to model reading dialogue with the expression and intonation that matches the characters’ feelings and motivations. Also model how to read certain words and phrases to accurately capture Marty’s dialect. 
    • Example: On page 14, model how to say and read the word ‘em in a way that accurately reflects the way Marty’s father would speak. 
    • Example: On page 15, model reading the word lettin’. 
    • Example: On page 17, model reading the conversation with Judd aloud, placing an emphasis on how to show each characters’ emotion. 
  • After reading sections aloud teachers should pick two to three subsections to have scholars reread with a partner using proper expression and intonation. Prompting questions: 
    • How does reading with expression help a reader better understand Marty and his family? 
    • What should a reader pay attention to in order to know what expression to use when reading a text? 
    • What should a reader pay attention to in order to know what intonation to use when reading a text? 
  • The remainder of the text should be read either in partners or independently. Circulate and give feedback on scholars use of intonation and expression, particularly when reading dialogue or dialect. If needed, have the class practice reading certain sections of the text together in order to review a particular fluency teaching point. 
  • A few times over the course of the unit, have students select a short section of the text to reread in order to self-assess their own fluency. Students can either score their own fluency on the Fluency Rubric, or get feedback from a partner. Partners should use the language of the teaching points, or the rubric, when giving targeted feedback. 
  • If desired, pick sections of the text from lesson 21 to use as a fluency benchmark. Score students on the Expression and Volume and Phrasing sections of the Fluency Rubric
  • During close reading lessons, model reading slowly or rereading sections multiple times in order to deeply digest and unpack a section of text. Prompt: 
    • How does adjusting reading rate help build a deeper understanding of a text? 
    • How does rereading sections of a text help build a deeper understanding of a text?

In this unit students work on breaking down words into known parts, both syllables and affixes, as a way to decode and tackle new words. In later units scholars explore using context clues and more complex affixes, however, the focus of this unit is on introducing and developing the habits of vocabulary and word knowledge. 

Note: After using context and word solving strategies to break down unknown words, scholars can consult reference materials to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the meaning of keywords.

Literary Terms?

point of view, first-person point of view, third-person point of view, dialect, evidence, synonym, antonym

Plot: conflict, key events, resolution, lesson

Roots and Affixes?

  • In- (not)
  • Im- (not)
  • Dis- (not, opposite of)
  • Non- (not)
  • Over- (too much, above)
  • Mis- (bad or badly, wrong or wrongly)


Chapters 1-5: mission, abused, courage, mistreated, cringe, business, flustered, dusk, impatient, infuriated, dwell, impact, influence, pen, please, fine, tense, threats, unfasten

Chapters 6-10: humble, depend, bold, envy, ashamed, suspicions, bawl, obliged, stumped

Chapters 10-15: enthusiasm, pester, mess, decency, sympathy, bound, mournful, nonsense, fond, quarrel, intention, regulation, allowance, spite, omission, bargain, pitiful, witness

Idioms and Cultural References?

when it rains, it pours

two wrongs don’t make a right

don’t count your chicken before they hatch

taste of your own medicine

make ends meet

once in a blue moon

  • Understand and describe life in West Virginia in the 1970s
  • Understand that people who live in different places may speak with a different dialect and accent
  • Explain hunting rules and why they exist

Building Content Knowledge:

  • Research life in West Virginia in the 1970s.  Be prepared to explain to scholars the difference between life in rural West Virginia in the 1970s and where they currently live.
  • Research rules of hunting and why they exist. Be prepared to explain rules of hunting when they arise in the text so that scholars are able to understand those aspects of the plot. (Needing a permit, hunting off seasons, warden etc.)

Building Understanding of Unit Priority Standards and Text:

  • Read and annotate Shiloh with essential questions and key understandings in mind. 
  • Take unit assessment and look for evidence of unit priority standards: 
    • Standard RL4.1 – What does it mean to refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences? What does a good reader need to know and understand in order to refer to details and examples in a text? 
    • Standard RL4.3 – What does it mean to describe a character in depth? What types of details do authors include to help the reader better understand a character? What does it mean to describe the setting in depth? How does the setting influence the plot of a story? 
    • Standard RL4.6 – What is the difference between first and third person point of view? Why do authors choose to write a story in one perspective over the other? 
  • Write exemplar response for unit assessment questions.

Establishing Classroom Routines and Procedures: 

  • Determine structure for rolling out annotations – mini-lessons, modeling, expectations, feedback etc. and how this will progress over the course of the unit. 
  • Determine structures and expectations for text consumption. In what ways will scholars consume the text? What will scholar responsibilities be depending on how the text is being consumed? How will decisions about text consumption be made? 
  • Determine structures and expectations for discussion days. Think about how to set up the procedures and routines to make discussions purposeful. Plan how to introduce the habits over the course of the unit. 
  • Determine structures for writing about reading block. Think about how to set up expectations for work, feedback, and investment. Plan how to introduce these structures over the course of the unit.


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