Using Shades of Gray in the Classroom
Explain that the story takes place immediately after the Civil War and that Virginia has been devastated by the warnot just by battles, but also by the presence of army camps.
Locate Winchester (where Will grew up) and the area of the Virginia Piedmont area northwest of Culpeper (where he went to live with his aunt's family).
Make sure the students appropriately associate The South/Confederates/Rebels and The North/Union/Yankees.
Activities to entice visual and hands-on learners:
Choose and illustrate 6-8 scenes that will summarize the story, and write a caption for each illustration.
Draw a diagram of the interior of Aunt Ella and Uncle Jed's house, both the downstairs and the loft, with furnishings.
Draw a diagram of Aunt Ella and Uncle Jed's farm, showing buildings and fields, etc.
Make a map of the area around the farm. Show the farm, the mill, the store, the river, the woods where Will walked the trapline, and the Jenkins's farm.
Questions to discuss after finishing the book:
What are some possible meanings of the title?
What are some of the reasons people have volunteered to fight in our nation's wars?
What are some of the reasons people have refused to fight?
How did Will change? What caused these changes?
To encourage vocabulary building:
After finishing the book, have groups of students choose interesting words from a particular chapter and create a vocabulary-matching exercise and/or fill-in-the-blank sentences using those words. Groups could then enchange papers and do each others' worksheets.
Further reading for interested students:
Suggest other Civil War novels, including Across the Lines and books by Patricia Beatty and G. Clifton Wisler.
Recommend The Boys War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War, by Jim Murphy, which shows the war from the viewpoints of boys under sixteen.
Find out more about the burning of Chambersburg, PA by the Confederates and the destruction of the Shenandoah Valley by the Union cavalry.