10 Awesome and Effective Ways to Use Class Pets in Your Lesson Plans
Our class guinea pig
As a 5th grade teacher, I know how important it is to plan creative and interesting lesson plans to engage my students. Any teacher knows that the more interested in the assignment students are, then the better quality work you’re likely to get from them. I don’t have to look much further than our class pet, Theodore G. Pig, to generate ideas I know my students will enjoy! Here are some lesson plan ideas to incorporate in the classroom:
1. Name Voting Contest: This is the first lesson I planned. It was quick and easy; I told the students they would submit name ideas and gave them some guidelines to follow. First of all, the names had to be appropriate. No smart-alecky, rude names. Secondly, the names had to be gender appropriate. Since the guinea pig is a male, they had to suggest male names. Lastly, we would vote as a class for the name we liked best and would agree to use that name for the year. I reminded my students that in a democracy, the highest vote gets the win and it’s respectful to honor that vote, even if we don’t all agree.
2. Responsibility: Most schools incorporate character traits in their classrooms, especially at the elementary level. When responsibility was our school’s monthly character trait, we had several class discussions about how taking care of a pet shows responsibility. My students listed ways that we are responsible for our pet in the classroom, and they compared and contrasted what it’s like taking care of a pet at home. I could have taken the lesson a few steps further by assigning writing prompts using the 6 traits of writing.
3. First-Person Writing Prompts: I find that my students like to write “as someone or something else.” It makes for a more challenging and interesting writing assignment where they’re writing from the point of view of another person or even object. Already this year, I implemented a poetry assignment from the first-person point of view of a tornado. Later this year, I will will have my students write from Theodore’s point of view where they will have to describe the class from the point of view of our guinea pig.
4. Making Lists or Listing Directions: It’s a state standard for 5th grade that students will write lists and list directions. Students can generate a number of lists about the class pet including: lists of his necessities, lists of ways to care for him, lists of food he eats, etc. (Some of these lists might even include doing research, which is another state standard!) Students can also write directions on things like: steps on feeding/watering, steps for cleaning his cage, steps for shopping for his things, etc.
5. Scientific Observation Journals: Across all grade levels, students must write observations as part of the scientific process. Students can write observations using their five senses to describe a pet and/or his habitat.
6. Research Activities: Whether it’s generating single who, what, where, when, why, and how questions or completing an entire research paper, you can use your class pet as the focus of conducting research. This may include using reference sources like the internet, encyclopedias, magazines, phone book, etc.
7. Persuasive Writing: In past years, before actually having a class pet, I’ve used the idea for persuasive writing, where students had to write why we should have a class pet. You can have students write persuasive prompts on getting a pet, getting a specific animal, or maybe why NOT to get a pet. They can write persuasive prompts to their families or other classroom teachers.
8. Other Writing Ideas: You can incorporate a class pet into a variety of other writing assignments such as: poetry, narrative writing, story writing (and illustrating), informational pieces (newspaper or magazine articles, advertisements, etc.), care or maintenance schedules, or letters (write a business letter to a pet store, a friendly letter describing your pet, or a thank you note if someone donated a pet or their materials).
9. Activities for Reading: You can read books in class that include the same animal as your pet (fish, guinea pig, etc.); have your students research books about the animals or that have characters that are that animal; students can create their own picture books or stories; introduce new vocabulary words about your pet.
10. Science Activities: Incorporate ideas about nature, habitat, life cycle, food webs/chains, inquiry/scientific process, environment, ecosystems, and life sciences (organisms and their functions, reproduction, heredity, behavior, etc.)
I hope these ideas have inspired some teachers out there to keep their class pets in mind when planning lessons for your classes. I may have even inspired some to consider getting a class pet! I encourage any educators to leave a comment to share any of their ideas on how they have (or would like to) use their class critters in their lessons. I would love to hear more suggestions and am sure that other readers would be interested, as well.
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