Lesson One addresses all California
Literacy Standards listed, plus Science as Inquiry, Life Science,
especially behavior, and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
To improve reading and writing skills, animal observation skills,
and build care and concern for animals and the environment.
The book, Pawprints ©, Pawprints
story forms (click here), pencils,
a willingness to laugh, and observe pets and other animals in the
immediate neighborhood at home or at school.
Many of us have pets at home. Those who do not are usually familiar
with animals people often keep as pets – cats, dogs, gerbils, birds, and
some that are a bit less common – snakes, iguanas, rats. It is important
that we all recognize how critical it is to treat our pets and all animals
the way we ourselves would like to be treated, with kindness and
compassion. But it is also true that our animals give us a tremendous
amount in return.
First, in the classroom, ask the students to look at the table of
contents of the book Pawprints, and pick a story they’d like to
read aloud. Have a child volunteer, read the story to the class, and then
conduct a discussion of what the story means to the reader and the other
students in the class. You may want to refer to the list at the end
of this lesson plan to
help guide student story selection.
Some of the questions to ask:
What does the story tell you about the animal that was involved?
What does the story tell you about the person (or people)?
How does the person (or people) treat the animal(s)?
Is this a way you would treat the animals?
How do you think the person (or people) in the story felt after they
had the experience with the animal (s)? The same? Differently? What was
Does this story remind you of an experience you have had? Tell us about
Second, have the class pick one or two more stories to read aloud and
discuss. Next, ask the students to write a story as homework, using the
Pawprints forms. They can write a story about one of their own pets,
or about any other animal they see in the neighborhood. Be sure to remind
them not to get close to animals that pose danger, even some that are in
the book. This is a time to say, "Don’t practice this at home" when
confronting raccoons, for example. Some of the things to keep in mind for
Be careful to observe how the animal behaves. Note the look on its
face. See if you can tell whether there are actual expressions on its
face, and what you think they mean.
Note the actions it takes. Is the animal doing things
like making sounds, or moving in particular ways? Describe these. What
do you think the sounds might mean? What do you think the actions might
Think about the way you feel as you observe the animal. Do you feel
any differently? Can you describe how being close to this animal is
making you feel? Is this a feeling you like?
Does the animal want you to do something for it? Is this easy, hard
to do? Is it safe? If it’s safe, can you do it? (Maybe it’s your pet who
wants you to feed it, for example, or pat it.) Once you do this, how do
you feel about yourself? About the animal?
When you feel you are ready, write the story of your meeting with
this animal, using the style you saw in the book Pawprints.
Remember that your story can be short, but be sure you include how you
feel about the experience, what you and the animal were communicating
with each other, and anything else you observed about the animals looks,
behaviors and communication that you would like to include.
Give the students a deadline that is appropriate for your class - a day
or two, or a week – to bring their written stories to class. Invite the
students to volunteer to read their stories aloud, and conduct a
discussion similar to the Pawprints book discussion.
Additional questions when the students’ stories are brought to class:
Do you feel differently about the animal you were writing about than
you did before this assignment? If so, can you describe the difference
for the class?
Do you feel differently about yourself? What’s the difference, if so?
What do you think makes you feel different?
Do you feel the same? Are there things you already felt or did that
you would do more of? Less?
What have you learned about how to treat other animals (besides human
Do you think you might treat animals differently in the future? What
would you do? What makes you say that?
Do you plan to talk to other people about how they can treat animals
better? What could you tell them?
Stories in the book "Pawprints" are generally for children
grades 1-12, and for adults (ESL, parents, grandparents, general readers to age 100). Some stories contain
vocabulary and concepts that are advanced for the youngest children, under
second grade age level. The following stories have universal
applicability, testing has shown, and can be used successfully with
younger children, grade 1 and advanced pre-school children, as well as
older student and adult readers. Note that three stories are on our website,
You may download and test them with your students.
- Nose Fur, p. 7
- Cloud Bouncing, p. 9
- Raccoon Beggar, p. 11
- Kids, p. 14
- Raccoon in a Can, p. 17
- Cat Campaign, p. 19
- Guerilla Cat, p. 26
- Prickles, p. 27
- Helcio's Bird, p. 28
- Birdshot, p. 31
- For Doubting Toms, p. 33
- A Dog's Cheer, p.
- Cindy and the Laser Printer, p. 37
- Who's Unclean?, p. 41
- Unmistakable Clues, p. 43
- Toilet Lips, p. 44
- Well! p, 48, Mis (Meese), p. 52
- Stupid Ear Tricks,
- EEEECH!, p. 69
- Shrimp on the Run, p. 70
- Animal Politics, p. 72
- Testing Limits, p. 74
- Stupid Ear Tricks, p. 79
- In Love with the Old Rat Gray, p. 91
Note that vocabulary in these stories occasionally is advanced.
We have found that stopping as a child is reading aloud, and asking for a
definition, is very useful. If no one knows or can figure out the
meaning from context, we have an opportunity for a dictionary moment.
Having the kids write the word and its meaning helps them retain the
information. You can have them create their own 3x5cards, with the
word on one side, definition on the reverse. Kids/parents can take
turns with children to show the word, and ask its meaning, while keeping
the definition hidden from view.