Tania K. Cowling is a former teacher, a published book author, and award winning freelance writer.
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Kids are crazy about critters, and with the 35th anniversary of National Pet Week taking place the week of May 7-13, it's the perfect time to teach your class about animals. I like to use students' own pets as a starting point and build a curriculum unit from there. Here are some of my favorite activities for celebrating National Pet Week in the classroom.
Start by encouraging your primary students to talk about their pets during a sharing session. What do they like the most about their pet, and since pets aren't perfect, what do they dislike? What's the funniest thing their pets have ever done? If there are students without pets, what animal would they love to have as a pet?
If you're teaching a history lesson, talk about presidential pets. Did you know that almost all of our U.S. presidents have owned pets? George Washington was the proud owner of numerous dogs during his stay, and his wife Martha doted on their very talkative green parrot. Abraham Lincoln had a dog and a pig. His son Tad had ponies that were given full reign at the White House, and a turkey also became part of the family when Tad grew attached to the bird that was intended for Christmas dinner.
Make booklets for students to write in every day of National Pet Week. Use rubber stamps or specialty stationary to give the cover pages a special pawprint border. I had students bring in a picture of their pet(s) to add to the cover, along with the pet's name. With my help, the class spent a few minutes each day writing a couple sentences about the characteristics of their pet dog, cat, bird, or other critter. Other days, they added their own drawings.
Getting your students into fictional writing is a fun activity that helps to polish their creative skills. My kids needed encouragement, so I researched story starters to give them inspiration. Give your young learners ample time to write a fun, fictional story and then share it with the class. Here are a few fun titles you can use as prompts in your classroom:
Invite each student to think of an unusual pet and ask them to write down three clues about the animal. Then instruct students to challenge their peers to guess the pet from the given clues. See who can stump the class!
Hide marbles, or another prop, around the classroom prior to playing the game. Divide the class into teams and have each team choose an animal name. Select a captain for each team who will hold a paper lunch bag. On signal, team members will search the room for marbles. When a player finds one, instead of picking it up, he or she must make the sound of the team animal (barking, meowing, etc) to alert the captain, and only the captain may pick up the marbles. After they're all found, the team with the most wins.
Try these entertaining and educational activities to celebrate National Pet Week. Don't forget to talk about veterinarians and other community members who help pets and their owners, and you can even try to invite someone to speak to your class.