Emotional Connection to a Story through Listening and Guided Visualization


Teacher: Kristina McGuirk

Students: Grade 3, ages 8-9

Audio Content: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Shiloh

Location: Woodlynde School, Strafford, PA


Ms. McGuirk’s 3rd grade class had been working on their Iditarod Unit. Hoping to integrate audio into the classroom that would complement her curriculum, she logged onto Audible.com and perused their books featuring dog themes. Having read the book a number of years ago and believing that her students would enjoy it, she selected Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Shiloh, a classic children’s story about an 11-year old boy and his dog in rural West Virginia.

Use of Technology

Ms. McGuirk faced difficulty in downloading the Audible content due to the firewall in the school server, but discovered she could access Audible.com content from her personal computer. She downloaded Shiloh, burned it onto a CD and broadcast the story to her class with a CD player. But with the track selection, it was difficult for Ms. McGuirk to find where she had left off on the previous day. There was also slight feedback, compromising the sound of the audio. On the second day of listening, the CD seemed to be scratched and would periodically skip. This proved to be distracting to most students, along with an inexplicable clicking noise coming from the CD.

Experience in the Classroom

Since Shiloh is a longer chapter book, the listening activities continued over a series of days, as the class listened to one chapter a day. Each day, a student-volunteered recap of the previous action would provide a framework for the students to begin listening. They would reiterate the action, setting and background knowledge. The students were given blank sheets of paper to draw scenes from each chapter, and they wrote about the story. The students listened to the story and seemed very absorbed in it, obviously connecting to it emotionally. As they listened, Ms. McGuirk wrote key words on the board; concepts, characters and vocabulary words.

At the end of the listening segment, Ms. McGuirk asks the students to help her define the various words on the board. “What qualities and characteristics do you know about Judd Travers?” she asked. Students volunteer answers such as, “He cheats,” “He hunts deer out of season,” and “He spits tobacco.” They also went over vocabulary words such as veterinarian, cornmeal mush and shrug. Students also made connections between the book and other media, as one student compared a tobacco-chewing character from the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” to a character in the book, Judd.


After the students finished listening to Chapter Two, they were vocal about their distrust and hatred toward Judd Travers, the story’s antagonist. One student says he wants “to kill him,” while another says he wants to “throw a pencil in his eye.” Students also reacted emotionally during the part where Shiloh’s owner eats a rabbit – “eww!” Their passionate reaction clearly suggested that they were engaging with the story. The students also sympathized with the story’s protagonist, Marty. They were able to understand some of the conflicts that he was going through and identify with him. The students reported that they didn’t like the book because they had trouble connecting to a different culture than their own and thought the book was “weird.” When asked how this experience differed from more conventional reading, Ms. McGuirk says that the narrator’s accent made it more real and helped transport to listeners to another world, though it also was a hindrance.

Teacher Quote

“Many of my students have auditory processing issues and it was difficult for them to understand parts the story. Even so, I believe that hearing the dialect, along with guided visualization, helps to bring the story to life and strengthen the students’ listening skills and comprehension.”


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