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Young Readers' Series: Good Dogs

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Open to: Grades 2-3

Eligibility: CTY-level or Advanced CTY-level math or verbal score required

Prerequisites: Students must be proficient readers and writers of English to gain value from the course. An optional, free, self-graded, 15-question readiness assessment is available.

Course Format: Session Based. See calendar for session dates and application deadlines.

Course Length: 10 weeks (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, Spring) or 12 weeks (Early Summer, Mid-Summer)

Course Code: YYGD

Course Description    


What makes a “good” dog? Could your dog know you better than you know your own pet? This course examines the adventures of several good dogs--even when they behave badly-- and includes short videos about scientific investigations of canine intelligence. In Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan, his family is changed forever by a puppy whose zest for life and penchant for trouble remains to the end of his long, mischievous life. Author Gary Paulsen in Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers, brings his love and knowledge of Iditarod racing to readers in his memoir about Cookie, a dog who saved his life more than once. In the Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, twelve-year-old Tee faces possible death in her determination to unravel the secret of a ghostly canine who seems to be stalking her. A malamute named McKinley describes his busy life, protecting his human pup, Jack, and maintaining order in his role as head dog of the town in The Good Dog by Avi. The four books include humor, adventure, suspense, and sadness.
Visit the Home Page of the Good Dogs classroom.

About the Young Readers' Series for Grades 2 & 3

The Young Readers' Series is designed to enhance a student's critical reading, writing, and thinking skills. Designed for enrichment, course assignments meet or surpass the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading. As students participate in written discussion forums, they make inferences, determine motivations, evaluate arguments, and provide textual evidence to support their opinions. Creative writing assignments encourage students to take on different points of view, summarize details, compare authors, and discuss central ideas. 
Designed for children reading at a 5th grade level or above, students enrolled in the Young Readers' Series for Grades 2 and 3:
  • Read three or four thematically connected, age-appropriate books of increasing difficulty
  • Participate in online written discussions with gifted classmates from Boston to Beijing
  • Post writing assignments such as newspaper articles, letters, journals, dialogues, and editorials
  • Learn sophisticated vocabulary words and literary devices with the help of online games and puzzles
  • Receive individualized written feedback from their instructor about each lesson's work

Parents Ask...

  • Students typically read and share written responses every other day (fall, spring, and early summer sessions) or daily (midsummer intensive session).
  • Work is posted in the virtual classrooms at the student’s convenience as long as each lesson's deadlines are met.
  • It does not matter whether a student has already read one or all of the books before the course begins because the emphasis on citing the text requires careful re-reading.
  • Students must already be proficient in Standard Written English. [Instructors discuss grammar only when it affects meaning.]
  • These critical reading courses are designed to be ungraded, enrichment courses; instead of a grade, instructors provide specific feedback about each student's work at the end of each lesson and a detailed final evaluation at the end of the course. Parents or guardians may request a final grade if needed for school credit.

About Readability and Appropriateness

Parents are encouraged to consider the information contained in Readability and AppropriatenessLook inside the books, and Read reviews for the books before deciding on the course that would be most interesting and appropriate for their child.


The easiest method to check readability for your child is the “Five Finger Rule.” Have the child begin reading aloud any page of a book at random and raise your finger each time he or she struggles with a word. If your child reaches the end of the page before you have raised five fingers, your child should be able to read the book independently.

CTY Online Programs simplifies this informal assessment by linking to pages of almost every book in the Look inside the books section. Please perform this “Five Finger Rule” assessment on the last or next to last book of any course you are considering.


Parents should be aware that each course contains books with humor, mystery, adventure, and heroism as well as suspense and sadness. Please look inside the books and read reviews to decide whether these books would be of interest and are appropriate for your child. If you are still uncertain whether your child is ready for a course, please email us or call 410-735-6144. 

Look inside the books. Students are urged to perform the “Five Finger Rule” assessment to determine readability and appropriateness.

Look inside Marley: A Dog Like No Other
Look inside Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers
Look inside Legend of the Ghost Dog
Look inside The Good Dog

Read reviews. Parents are urged to review for appropriate content.

Reviews of Marley: A Dog Like No Other
Reviews of Look inside Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers
Reviews of Legend of the Ghost Dog
Reviews of The Good Dog

Materials Needed

  • Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan (Harper Collins, 2007) ISBN 9780061240355
  • Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers by Gary Paulsen (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007) ISBN 9780152061036
  • Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Scholastic Press; Reprint edition, 2014) ISBN 9780545391283
  • The Good Dog by Avi (Aladdin, 2003) ISBN 0689838247

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Lesson 1: Marley – A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan

Begin reading Marley – A Dog Like No Other
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 2: Marley – A Dog Like No Other

Finish reading Marley – A Dog Like No Other
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board questions.

Lesson 3: Puppies, Dogs and Blue Northers by Gary Paulsen by Stephanie S. Tolen

Read portions of Puppies, Dogs and Blue Northers
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 4: Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Begin reading Legend of the Ghost Dog
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 5: Legend of the Ghost Dog

Continue reading Legend of the Ghost Dog
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 6: Legend of the Ghost Dog

Finish reading Legend of the Ghost Dog
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 7: The Good Dog by Avi

Begin reading The Good Dog
Watch short video
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 8: The Good Dog

Continue reading The Good Dog
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 9: The Good Dog

Finish reading The Good Dog
Watch short video
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board
Contribute two thoughtful posts to the Summary Discussion Board

Lesson 10: Summary Assignments covering all three books

Vote your opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the Blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum.
Complete the Literary Terms Quest [Quest=More questions than a quiz, but fewer questions than most tests!]

Time Required

This course requires approximately three hours for each of the ten lessons. Students should expect to spend approximately 3 hours per week during the course.

About Summer Sessions:

The Young Readers' Series offers 12-week summer sessions that allow families to take a week or two of vacation and 10-week sessions. All sessions cover the same course material and assignments.

While the 12-week summer sessions courses allow for 2 weeks total vacation, students in the Young Readers’ courses are encouraged to work ahead or make up their work to try to keep up with their classmates whenever possible. Experience has shown that these courses are most fun when all students are working on the same lesson. Students must notify the instructor at the course's start about any planned vacation dates and must meet scheduled due dates when they are not on vacation. Students who make up their work can finish their summer course in 10 weeks.

If you have any questions, please contact us before applying at

Sample Assignment


Good Dogs Sample Assignment

To give you an idea of the type of assignments involved, the following is the first of ten lessons:

Instructions for Lesson One:

All work is due on the due date shown in the Home Page of the classroom.

1. Watch the 1-minute video for an overview of what scientists are currently studying about the special relationship of dogs to humans.

2. Begin reading Marley - A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan in the following chunks:

Preface and Chapters 1-4 (Pg. 1-27)
Chapters 5-7 (Pg 28-55)
Chapters 8-10 (Pg. 56-80)
Chapters 11-14 (Pg 81-104)

3. Read the pages above and then take this self-graded Quiz.

Directions: Read the pages listed above for this lesson before taking this self-graded quiz. If you don’t know an answer, refer to your book. To answer the last two questions, count how many questions you answered correctly without referring to the book. Feel free to click on the links to learn the definitions of literary terms such as “inference,” “simile,” “alliteration,” and “onomatopoeia.”

4. Vote your opinion in the Poll found on the Home Page.

5. Post ONE of the following blog assignments to the Blog Forum:

a. The author, his wife, and children know Marley pretty well, but since Marley spends so much time watching out for and protecting “his family,” the dog may know the family better than they realize. Think about an animal who might consider you (or someone you know) as a fellow member of the family. Then, pretend you are that animal and write a 50-250+ word description of the personality of a human that the pet considers as “family”--- from that animal’s point of view. Remember that the animal has to describe the personality of a human he or she knows very well. You may want to begin your blog with “One of my favorite family members is ___”

b. In Chapter 12, Marley "looked up at me with the saddest, most mournful eyes I have ever seen, and just gazed at me. It was as if he were trying to tell me something, something important he needed me to understand." Write a 50-250+ word account of what Marley was thinking, that is, exactly what Marley wanted to tell John Grogan about why he had done what he had done to the laundry room.

6. Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board in response to any of the following topics. (Remember! At least one of these two thoughtful posts should be in reply to a discussion post made by another student.)

a. A better fitting name. From how the puppy is described in Chapters 1 through 3, can you think of a better name for him than "Marley"? Explain why your suggestion would be a better fit..

b. A better fitting dog. What evidence is given during the Grogan's first meeting with Lori that the puppy they selected might have behavior problems? Cite passages from the book. Do you think that the Grogans are foolish to overlook this evidence? What attraction did Marley hold for the couple that made him their choice over the other puppies? Do you think John and Jenny ever considers returning Marley during their first six months together in the hopes of finding a more well behaved puppy? Would you? Explain why or why not. How do you think that John's childhood experience with the perfect "St. Shaun" influences his perception of Marley?

c. Who's the alpha dog? In Chapter 5, the dog trainer is described as a person who believed that "there are no bad dogs, only weak willed and hapless owners" (29). Do you agree? Do you think that after six months with John and Jenny, it is now too late to convince Marley that he is not the alpha dog in the family? Do you think that Marley would have been better behaved if the Grogans had been stricter during their first six months together, or do you agree with the dog trainer that Marley is still too immature to train? Explain your position.

d. "I want him out of here." In Chapter 8, Jenny finally decides that Marley has to find a new home. What was the last straw? John realizes that his wife needs time to calm down, but hours later, when Jenny seems her old self, she repeats, "I want him out of here" (60). Are you surprised? Do you blame Jenny for her stand? Why or why not? Cite passages from the first nine chapters of the book of times that John secretly enjoyed Marley's misbehavior. Why do you think John had not made a more successful effort to train Marley before Jenny's ultimatum? Do you think that Jenny would have changed her mind and allowed Marley to stay if he had not become a better behaved dog? Explain your reasoning.

e. The prisoner escapes. In Chapter 12, the Grogans realize that even after all these years, they still are anxious every time they leave Marley alone in the house. Marley figures out again and again how to escape from the giant steel crate. Can you think of anything else that the Grogans could have done to give them peace of mind whenever Marley was left alone?

f. Marley the babysitter. In Chapter 14, the Grogans leave Marley in their yard, seemingly protecting their new born daughter. Considering his history of misbehavior and superstrength, do you think this showed good judgment on their part? Why or why not? What could have gone wrong?

g. Questions? After watching the introduction to the Dogs Decoded video, do you have any questions that you would like answered about dogs, their communication, and the relationship between humans and dogs? Explain. Would you expect scientists or people who live with dogs to be the best resource for answering your question?

Note: You are provided with a list of “Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words that you can use to help better understand this book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.

OPTIONAL--Not required--Fun and Challenges:

  • Share your favorite stories and authors with other students in the Recommended Reading Wiki.
  • Print out and work on the crossword puzzles that have been provided to help reinforce your knowledge of the "mind-expanding" vocabulary words.
  • Play some literary terms and vocabulary review games.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.

This course requires that the student use a web browser with the Adobe Flash plugin. Note that many tablets and handhelds (particularly the iPad) do not support Flash and cannot view the lessons.



"It is refreshing and motivating for my daughter to read the instructor's specific remarks (She is accustomed to receiving "good" as the sole comment on her efforts!)."

"The instructor was extremely attentive and very encouraging. We thoroughly enjoyed working with her this summer.  She was able to direct my son in such a positive way and leave him empowered to dig deeper into his thinking and writing based on what he read. He was always left more inspired to read more and write more after he read her constructive and encouraging words each week. My husband and I were extremely impressed by the caliber of this course (our very first CTY Online Programs ever!)."

"I really liked how my instructor gave me detailed feedback, which helped me improve further each week. She was very approachable (albeit via email).  I can tell she enjoys teaching and is very kind. I've learned to analyze books in more depth and write thoughtful discussions."

"The instructor’s feedback and instruction have increased my daughter's confidence with regard to her writing skills. My daughter is expressing a strong desire to become an author and wants to continue learning more about writing. She has always excelled in writing at school; however, after taking this course, her middle school teachers have commented on how much more advanced she is than others in her honors courses because of her style of writing."

"The feedback on the writing assignments was incredibly thorough and comprehensive. My son started the course and submitted disorganized work. The instructor's detailed commentary helped him to improve his work dramatically."

"The instructor provides positive feedback, individualized attention and tips that do not overwhelm the children. She motivated my child and gave her the confidence to express herself."

"My instructor's feedback was very helpful - always taking my thinking to a new level. She was thorough and asked good questions. She also was good at sending reminders regarding the work that was due. She made me a better writer and critical thinker. She taught me to ask more questions."

"The instructor’s feedback explained the strong and weak points in my work.  She did this by first mentioning the things she liked, but she wasn't completely fussy, saying my work was amazing just to make me happy. Then, she would point out things I could improve. She does this not by yelling and screaming (you know what I mean), but pointing it out politely, but in a way that I could understand what to do.  She was nice, but also challenges us.  She was also particular not only about the contents of my writing, but about the spelling and grammar.  Even though she challenged us, she also wasn't too hard. People do not learn when things are too easy. When things are too hard, their brains get confused and they don't learn either. My instructor wasn't too hard, but she wasn't too soft.  She really was an outstanding teacher."

"Before I started my young readers’ course, I both disliked writing, and was bad at it. Whenever possible I avoided it. When I started my course with my instructor, I realized a talent for writing I never had before.  As the course went on I realized I was actually getting impatient, waiting for the next lesson so I could write more.  Before I thought of writing as a chore, the way most people think of school (not me!). Now I like to write and do it like it's something fun, which it is. My instructor taught me not only how to write, but also how to like to write."

"The instructor's ability to give thorough constructive criticism through an email, while keeping the tone of the suggestions unfailingly positive was amazing. My daughter learned much about writing in this course. While she reads at a high school level, her writing is much closer to her age (9). Constant positive encouragement and insightful comments enabled her to expand on her thoughts each week."