Making the Family Pet an Educational Experience

The family pet can be a way to get students reading, writing, and learning.

By Cathy Neushul


Making the Family Pet an Educational Experience

Students love to talk about their family pets. Their dogs, cats, or parakeets can be a source of wonderful stories, and can provide a way for students to talk about their lives outside of class. While having students talk about their family pets can be a way to create bonding in the classroom, it can be educational as well. Students can write about their pets, make graphs with their results, and do research. But even if not everyone has a pet, this isn’t a problem. You can formulate lessons so that students can talk about an animal they have, or one they would like to have. What follows are some suggestions about how to make pets a motivating way to get students reading, writing, and talking.

Doing Research on Pets

While you can have students write about and show pictures of their family pet, you can also assign students a research project which involves learning about their animal of choice. You can have students do research on an animal they have at home, or one they would like to have. Students should spend some time looking at books and on the Internet for information about the animal. You should ask them to find one angle they would like to focus on. For example, a student could do research on how dogs are used to rescue people, or write about the history of cats in Egypt. The idea is for students to get creative about how they approach their topic. Once students have compiled their research, they can write a report to share with their classmates. Students will enjoy sharing what they have found out about their topic.

But you don’t have to stop here. Students can make a short video outlining what they found out about their animal. You can post these videos on a school related site and share them with parents and other classes.

Write a Story Featuring a Pet

You can use the story “Marley & Me” by John Grogan as an example of a story about a pet. Before you have students start writing, you could read excerpts of the story aloud. You can have students identify the elements of the story that make it interesting.  Even if students don’t have a Marley-like animal, they can make up a story that has the drama, and the human interest value. You might find that students don’t just want to write one story, they want to keep going. In the end, your students might end up with a book, composed of many chapters, with illustrations and pictures.

Putting Math in the Mix

This topic lends itself to math explorations. Students can graph the number of pets their classmates have, make a pie chart to show the number of pets in their area, or take a poll to find out which are their classmates favorite pets and graph the results. Students can also do research on a particular type of pet and graph the information they find. For example, if students did research to find the number of pets in animal shelters in the area, they could graph the results, and compare it to information for other areas. What follows are more pet lessons and activities.

Family Pet Lessons:

Pick a Pet

In this lesson students discuss the importance of matching a pet to the right family. This is a way to get students thinking about caring for animals and the importance of choosing wisely.

Too Many Pets/Too Few Homes

This lesson has students analyze the effects of animal overpopulation in North Carolina. This lesson could be adjusted to use with any area. It culminates with students writing a letter to the editor.

Describing Animals

While this lesson is about the popularity of using a small dog as a type of fashion accessory, it could be used as a way to have students discuss the characteristics of particular dogs, and which ones would be best for certain people.

Pet Pellets

Students learn about pet food and design their own. They create packaging for their product and market it. This is a creative way to integrate the family pet theme.