Teaching Ideas with a Dog Theme

I thought I'd share the story of Molly, our Old English Sheepdog, as part of today's post.  After all, aren't our pets woven into the memories we have made with our children and for ourselves?  Our pets, whether you have dogs, cats, gerbils, or fish, are valuable to the children we teach and help us to form connections to them.  I can honestly say that every child I've taught has enjoyed the Shadow and Molly stories I share, and when I tell a story, I usually get one back.  

Meet Molly

So Molly was a rescue dog.  Supposedly, she was rescued twice, but I would argue that she was rescued just once by us.  Here is one of Molly and me, and here is how Molly's story goes....

Molly was adopted by us after losing our golden retriever, Shadow. We were all devastated by his loss, but not terribly surprised as he was getting up in age.  He suffered a stroke while on a walk with me and had to be put to sleep a few days later.  Unfortunately, the timing of Shadow's loss was less than ideal because my father passed a few weeks later which was even more devastating, especially to Catherine, my youngest, so we waited for about a month before we began thinking about another dog. Although we loved our golden, we knew we wanted a dog with a little more manageable shedding.  We visited our local animal shelter and scanned the newspaper.  Eventually, I came across Molly on Craigslist.  Lesson learned.  Molly was advertised as "fully vetted", but upon visiting our vet for her initial checkup, I learned that she was overdue with all of her vaccinations by about six months.  In that amount of time, she contracted heart worms.  After $1500 in treatment expenses, I am happy to report that Molly is a healthy dog once again, and she is absolutely the best dog ever.
Now, I will move on to resources you can use in your classroom to share your love of dogs with your students.  For K-2 readers, my favorite choices come from Cynthia Rylant. The Great Gracie Chase reminds me so much of Shadow and his love for chasing squirrels.  I swear he would spy them from a quarter of a mile away. If he got off the leash, the chase was on.  He never could catch them though.  Still, he always tried! I do have a paid unit to go with this book that readers may be interested in.  [Here] is the link to it. I also found a free activity that I will list below. Bad Dog Marley is another favorite of mine.  In this book, Marley is one destructive animal, especially with storms.  Again, this one reminds me of Shadow.  He was terrified of storms, and we have drywall marks to prove it. LOL!  Both of these books could be used with young children, but would also work well as mentor texts for older readers for writing.  If you are working on voice, I think these are fantastic.  

In the primary grades, there are a zillion dog themed options to build reading interest too.  For my students in the primary grades, we start off with Biscuit, move on to Clifford and Sam (by Mary Labatt), and by the time they've gone through Clifford and Sam, they are ready for Mudge.  Using 
books in a series that stays true to the developmental level of the child helps build confidence and fluency.

Children in the upper grades love dogs too, and by third grade, many are responsible for the care of a pet at home.  Choosing pet themed books helps the students form text to self connections making the reading meaningful and memorable to them.  If you can tie in writing themes, even better!  As I pulled together my picks for the upper grades, I realized they all have a sad tone to them.  I wonder why??  Perhaps I love a good love story??  Who knows, but honestly, isn't that what makes the stories great?  The sheer love the characters show for these animals.  Sigh... I think that's why Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Shiloh are on the must read lists for elementary. 

In addition to these three, I also love Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, and I would recommend it as a read aloud for the middle grades too.  It's written in poetic verse, so it's best read orally.  It's not that long either, so the kids really would hang well with you.  I first heard it read by Nancy Patterson, author of A Simple Gift and Winner's Walk and instructor of my Young Adult Literature class.  She had a southern twang about her when she read it which I really enjoyed.  I still hear her voice.  

Another favorite of mine is Strider by Beverly Cleary. It has short chapters and a strong theme. It is the sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw, and in the book, Leigh's companion, Strider, helps him cope with growing up through a divorce.  

Finally, one of my all time favorites is Because of Winn Dixie,  It's another "coming of age" book with more depressing challenges, but what a great introduction to the work of Kate DiCamillo.  Every time I use this book, the kids run to the library searching for others by her.  Opal is new to town, and she's not really feeling very happy about it.  She befriends several unique "older" friends who help her acclimate to the community, adjust to life without her mother, form a bond with her father, and an everlasting friendship with the stray dog, Winn Dixie that wanders into her life.  (of course, my readers probably know this story well).  [This freebie] for Because of Winn Dixie would work well if a teacher wanted to use it as a read aloud.  

As far as resources for a dog theme go, I am going to share with you a writing freebie I put together. You can download that at the end of my post, but I will also share a few dog themed links I found that I loved on TPT.  

Dog and Cat Craft TemplatesDog With A Blog: Whole Class Writing MotivatorIf You Give A Dog A Donut...Laura Numeroff
Readers' Theater: Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers partner & trio playsLove that Dog - Before, During, AfterComprehension Test: The Great Gracie Chase - First or Seco
Here is my freebie.  I used this with the book, The Great Gracie Chase and Marley Goes to School. The children came up with wonderful stories last year, and I hope you get the same results if you decide to use it.  
Dogs at School Writing Prompt


Wow!  As you can tell, I LOVE using dog themed resources, and I hope you do too.  If so, please link up below any time this week, and feel free to tack the linky code to the bottom of your post so that others may access the linked resources too, but remember that this link up is intended for posts only. You posts do not need to be as lengthy as this one, but it's always great to read about the interesting activities and ways themes are extended throughout the curriculum.  

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