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August 13, 2011

Teaching Compassion with a Class Pet

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Teaching Compassion with Class Pets

Teaching Compassion with Class Pets

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.  — Gilda Radner

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.  — Jean Cocteau

 

Teachers are, by their very nature, caring and compassionate.  For many, those traits extend to their four-legged children, as well.  Whether you are a lover of cats, a lover of dogs, or a lover of some other animal that captures your heart, there is no denying that pets can quickly become family.

 

You can also learn a lot about your students by how they get along with pets.  There are those who firmly believe in class pets and others who either cannot or do not want to have them in the classroom.  For those who would like a class pet, but cannot have one due to school or district regulations, there are still options available.  Why are class pets important?  Well, they teach us a lot about compassion and acceptance; two traits that all students need to have developed and encouraged.

Compassion and Acceptance with a Class Pet

Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are the perfect read-to buddy for struggling or budding readers.  A stuffed puppy dog or even a fuzzy lamb can give comfort and lend a non-judgmental ear as the student reads aloud.  Think about including one or more stuffed animals in your library center this year.  You might also try this 5-minute class pet.  Tip:  Be sure the stuffed animal is easily washable, as you will want to toss it in the washer at least once a week.

Virtual Pets

Instead of a puppy for your classroom, adopt a virtual puppy from one of the online sites that let you and your students create a pet.  While some sites are very realistic (i.e. – Foopets), they also usually come with a price.  Others may be less realistic looking, but your class can adopt a pet dragon or creature from someplace like Neopets for free.  It is a great way to build a community spirit within the classroom without the fuss and mess of a real pet.

Meet My Pet

Encourage one student each week to bring in photos, a short video, and information about a pet that they may have at home.  That pet becomes the “Pet of the Week” and the student gets to talk about how he cares for his pet and some of the needs the pet has.  If students do not have pets, encourage them to bring in a favorite stuffed animal that they care of at home.

 

Let students get a glimpse into your personal life by talking about your own cat or dog during class.  By modeling a love for animals and a compassion for them, you are quietly encouraging your students to do the same.

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  • Danielle M.
    August 15, 2011

    I have 1 Betta as a class pet. The students are not distracted by him and we get all of the questions and excitement about him out on the first week. I use the fish as a tool for creative writing and any other topic I can fit him into. I feel that I get more attached to the fish than my students!

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  • Erin
    August 14, 2011

    I would love to have a therapy dog at our school! I believe they can work wonders!

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  • Marianne
    August 14, 2011

    We used to have a therapy dog in our school, but the district banned him. It was a huge loss for our students. He was a calming influence. It would be great if they reconsidered.

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  • Courtney Y.
    August 14, 2011

    My students from last year absolutely loved my two dogs. They talked about them like they were their own! I would update my desktop background with a new picture of them often. They were always excited to see what my two weiner dogs were up to!

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  • Susan
    August 14, 2011

    At my school we use a dog as a therapy dog, where students get the chance to sign up and read to Topaz. It is very neat to see kids reading to an animal because they are much more relaxed and enjoy the reading experience. In this situation kids build their self esteem reading to a pet because there is no one to judge or critique their reading skills.

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  • Cameo
    August 14, 2011

    What a great article. So many schools have banned classroom pets due to allergies or liability. I think it is crucial for students who dont have personal pets to learn the responsibility of taking care of one. Virtual pets are great because they can learn and no one gets hurt.

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  • Brian
    August 14, 2011

    I once sent home a teddy bear and a journal to a different student’s home each night. This was after reading a story from our reading curriculum. Sad things is after the 3rd day the poor teddy bear got lost. Toward the end of school I located it and the backpack it was in, in the cafeteria. The child must have left there during daycare!

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  • Emily
    August 14, 2011

    I really like the idea of “Meet the pet” if you are not able to have an actual classroom pet. It allows the students to share with others, and students can practice giving oral reports as well. Have the students write a short, informative report on their pet, including information such as pet’s name, birthday, what the pet eats, pet’s habits, what the pet is afraid of, specific adaptations the pet has, etc. This is a great classroom idea!

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  • Regina Giles
    August 14, 2011

    I really like the idea of spotlighting students’ pets. We start the year with a unit on pets.

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  • Tasha Moore
    August 14, 2011

    I’ve never heard of neopets. I can’t wait to try it out with my first grade students!!!! I have gotten soooo many great ideas from your site this summer. Thanks so much! This school year is going to be a great one!!!!!

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  • Barbara
    August 14, 2011

    We had rescue collies come to our school one year and the classes were given the option to adopt a collie. The classes that participated got a picture of their dog and then made posters to try to get it adopted in the community. They also collected items for their dog to eat, play with, get comfortable with and simply enjoy. It grew their empathy by leaps and bounds! Thanks for this important article!

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  • Kim Abbas
    August 13, 2011

    Last year we had a “pet day” in 2nd grade. For the last 30 minutes of the day everyone could bring in a pet. We had cats set up in one room, fish, gerbils, and other small animals in another room and dogs in the third room. Of course all pets needed to be able to get along with other animals nearby and an adult had to be with the pet at all times. The students then were able to visit each of the rooms to see their classmates pets. It turned out to be a great way to let kids share their pets.

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  • Lora
    August 13, 2011

    During the last election, we used that time to vote on a class pet–a Webkinz. When students earned a reward, they could choose to play with our Webkinz online.

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  • Lori Archer
    August 13, 2011

    I have been lucky enough to have a class hamster for the last two years. The kids enjoyed having a class pet. He died over the summer and I haven’t decided if I am going to replace him or not but I know the kids would love it if I did.

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  • Krista
    August 13, 2011

    It is so important that as teachers we never use live animals as pets or entertainment in the classroom. By keeping pets in the classroom, we are disturbing the safety of the children and the animal. I love that you have so many other choices for teaching the children to love and care for animals in the best way possible. Thank you!

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  • Tia Cox
    August 13, 2011

    At my school, we have Promethean boards. So, at the beginning of every year, my class gets to know my basset hounds, Bonnie and Clyde, through the pictures I put on the background of my computer. At the end of the year, I bring the dogs in for them to actually meet in person. They are such patient dogs that they let all those hands touch all over them. They don’t mind at all!

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