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March 14, 2012

Lesson Plans for Teachers

Don Smith and his animal-therapy dog Brasil, at East Nowalk Library in Conn.

Stanley Siegel

Today more than ever, teachers and other educators are looked upon to help shape not only good students but also good citizens. Overwhelmingly, our nation’s public supports the idea of character building and service-learning as tools in the educational community.

What better way of teaching students the fundamentals of good character than with one of their all-time favorite topics: animals? When it comes to teaching core skills and core values, humane-themed lessons can capture a child’s attention, imagination, and heart in ways that other subject matter may not.

Browse free, downloadable worksheets for students in grades K-6 >>

The following lesson plans, listed in order by grade level, are designed to teach age-appropriate, standards-based academic skills and major character concepts—kindness, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility, and integrity—while reinforcing those ideas as they apply to our treatment of animals. Many can be adapted for higher or lower grade levels as the teacher sees fit. 

Grades PreK-2

Animals Have Feelings, Too! Pre-K and Kindergarten. Students will learn that, just like people, animals have feelings, and that expressing and understanding feelings is an important part of being healthy.

What Does It Take to Care for a Pet? Pre-K and Kindergarten. Students will become familiar with pets’ basic needs by discussing pet-care supplies and their uses. (Language Arts)

A Visit to the Vet. Pre-K and Kindergarten. Students will understand the similarities between veterinarians and doctors for humans by drawing a pet’s visit to a vet’s office and a person’s visit to a doctor’s office. (Social Studies)

Pets and Their Homes: A Perfect Fit. Pre-K and Kindergarten. Students will practice working with the concepts of big/little and more/less as they apply to pets’ need for adequate space. (Math)

Pets and People: Needs We Share. Pre-K and Kindergarten. Students will recognize that companion animals and people share many of the same needs. (Science, Health)

Creating a Bird Friendly Habitat: The Mountain Who Loved a Bird. Grades Pre-K-1. Through the book The Mountain Who Loved a Bird, students will learn about habitats and why every animal needs one. (Science, Language Arts)

Good Training = Good Pets. Grades 1-2. By dramatizing and discussing solutions to problems caused by untrained pets, students will understand the need for pet owners to properly train and socialize their animals. (Language Arts)

Pets as Good Neighbors. Grades 1-2. By compiling a list of ways in which pets can be good or bad neighbors, students will recognize the training and behavior necessary for a pet to be a good neighbor. (Social Studies)

Pet Care Pluses. Grades 1-2. Students will complete word equations, using the symbols + or –, to express proper and improper pet care and training. (Math)

Safe Pets, Safe Kids. Grades 1-2. Students will identify potential hazards to humans and pets by drawing pictures of common objects in their homes or neighborhoods. (Science, Health)

Kitty Fright: Please Keep Me Inside Both Day and Night. Grades 1-3. Turn your classroom into a giant board game to show students the dangers faced by cats allowed to roam outdoors. (Language Arts, Science, Health)

Grades 3-6

Read for Their Lives! Interactive Bulletin Board. Grade 5 (but can easily be adapted for almost any grade level). Students will read books in order to raise money for the local animal shelter, and will also explore the purpose and functions of animal shelters. (Reading, Math)

Wringer Literature Circle. Grades 4-6.  Through a literature circle focused on Jerry Spinelli's award-winning book Wringer, students will examine ethical dilemmas, build compassion, and take an in-depth look at peer pressure and bullying, while learning about inhumane "contest kills." (Language Arts, Visual Arts)

Prairie Dog Unit. Grades 3-5. In this two-lesson unit, students will learn about prairie dogs and why they are a "keystone" of the prairie ecosystem. (Social Studies, Science, Language Arts)

Before You Were Mine. Grades 3-4. Through the children’s book Before You Were Mine, students will build empathy while learning basic pet care and responsibilities. Students will review letter writing and perspective. (Language Arts)

Responsible Pet Ownership, Step by Step. Grades 3-4. Through participation in a class discussion, students will demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of responsibility and dependency as they relate to pet ownership. (Language Arts)

Pet Care Professions. Grades 3-4. Students will identify people whose jobs meet the needs of pets and recognize how people in several occupations play important roles in a pet’s care. (Social Studies)

Pet Care Adds Up. Grades 3-4. Students will calculate the expenses associated with owning a pet and gain an understanding of the costs involved in properly caring for a pet. (Math)

Wild or Tame? Grades 3-4. Students will differentiate between wild and domestic animals and understand that pets, unlike wild animals, have lost much of their natural ability to take care of themselves. (Science/Health)

Poetic Justice: Understanding the Life of a Tethered Dog. Grades 3-5. Students will gain empathy for tethered dogs and learn why dogs should not be tethered by discussing and using language arts concepts including mood, meaning, figurative language, and imagery. (Language Arts)

Animal Tales Theatre. Grades 3-5. Students will learn and teach others about selected animal protection topics by putting on a puppet show. (Fine Arts/Theater, Language Arts)

Who's Responsible? Grades 5-6. Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of responsible and irresponsible as they relate to pet ownership by writing stories that incorporate both concepts. (Language Arts)

Good Answers for Pet Problems. Grades 5-6. Students will identify reasons that people give up their pets and some ways those circumstances or problems could be avoided. (Social Studies)

Pets Are for Life. Grades 5-6. By graphing the life spans of various animals, students will recognize that pet ownership is a commitment for the life of the pet. (Math)

First Aid Gives Pets a Second Chance. Grades 5-6. Students will learn basic animal first aid techniques and demonstrate them on stuffed animals. (Science/Health)

Grades 7 & Up

Fur Real? Grades 6-12. Students will develop a procedure for determining whether fur samples are real or faux, and discuss the implications for consumers of unlabeled or inaccurately labeled fur items. (Science, Language Arts)

Animal Farm: The Rest of the Story. Grades 7-10. Guide students in exploring the plight of modern-day farm animals through a reader’s theater examination of George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm. (Drama, Social Studies, Language Arts)

Protect Turtles. Grades 5-7. Students will understand that actions of humans can affect the environment and the animals who live there and will recognize ways that they can help to protect turtles. (Science)

The Tale of the Feral: Care and Multiplication of Feral Cats. Grades 5-8. Students will identify the difference between a feral and domesticated cat while using the scientific method of investigation, the practice of averages, and algebraic story problems. Students will learn about trap-neuter-return and how a caretaker can help a feral colony to live safely. (Math, Science)

Learning to Communicate with Dogs: The Importance of Training. Grades 6-9. By studying dog behavior and training, students will practice reading for information, research, and reporting skills. Students will also learn the importance of communication. (Language Arts)

Puppy Mill Lesson. Grades 6-12. Students will identify the basic needs associated with caring for a dog. Students will understand what a puppy mill is and recognize how the basic needs of these animals are not being met. Students will identify legal actions that can be taken to stop puppy mills and help strengthen animal cruelty laws, including developing letters to legislators and newspaper editors. (Language Arts, Social Studies)

Dogfighting Unit. Grades 6-12. The lessons in this five-part unit can be used individually or together as a unit. (Language Arts, Social Studies, Health)

Lesson One: The Game Show. The students will understand that dogfighting is harmful to people, is illegal, and creates a dangerous community.

Lesson Two: Dog Bite Prevention. The students will understand that dogfighting leads to bites or serious injury. Students will identify ways to prevent bites and recognize situations in which respect for dogs means leaving them alone.

Lesson Three: Dogfighting and Community. Students will learn state and federal laws as they relate to dogfighting and cruelty and graph problems associated with dogfighting in relation to personal feelings. Students will advocate for an end to cruelty and propose solutions through a flier campaign.

Lesson Four: Dogfighting Hurts Animals. The students will understand that dogfighting is harmful to the dogs being fought and other animals involved, and that fighting is not a natural activity for dogs. Students will compare the needs and feelings of dogs to those of humans to create empathy.

Lesson Five: The Media and Propaganda. The students will examine different types of propaganda related to dogfighting and popular culture. Students will understand what message is trying to be sent and observe the ways in which companies and artists attempt to get us to buy their products.

Media and Propaganda Extension Lesson. Students will examine how advertisements may not show how the advertised item impacts people, animals, and the environment.

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