Furry Listeners Boost Student Skills

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

If you’re a pet lover like I am, please PAWS and reflect on this technique to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention in and out of the classroom…

Pair Student Readers with Four-legged Listeners – Plan a day when your kids can read to a dog.  I know, the logistics for this  may be tricky, but if you can partner with an organization like “See Spot Read,” a volunteer group in Wake County, North Carolina, US, you can make this happen and help boost student reading skills as you set a lot of tails wagging.

“See Spot Read” takes certified pet therapy dogs to libraries and local schools for children to meet and read to. Furry friends make lovable listeners because they don’t judge a child while he or she is reading. They snuggle up next to the children and sit patiently even as the young readers struggle with word pronunciation and story comprehension.

Volunteers who bring the dogs in the program sit nearby, ready to help children read, but only when needed. In some communities, students as old as eleven and twelve who are reading below grade level delight in sharing stories with a four-legged audience.

Pet pals, real or stuffed, can also motivate pre-readers to make up stories and develop critical language skills. Here’s an idea…invite kids to fold construction paper in half to make a book cover. Ask students to choose a story theme and color the cover with an illustration about the theme.  Group the kids with a pet pal and start up storytelling time. Very young children believe that their pet pals are really listening!

Some schools allow teachers to have live class pets on a permanent basis. I’ve taught poetry writing and narrative writing in classrooms with cages of all kinds of critters – turtles, lizards, hermit crabs, rabbits, parakeets, ants and ferrets. No wonder school is sometimes called “a zoo.” (Just kidding!)

Class pets can help you catch and keep kids’ attention during instruction time across a wide range of curricular areas.  As you’re reviewing math problems, for example, you can glance over towards “Hopper,” the class rabbit, and casually mention that “he’s COUNTING on the class getting their math problems correct and would appreciate receiving the HIGHEST NUMBER of carrots.” Just about any connection to animals is attention-getting.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet


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