Following is the first lesson from our curriculum guide, published by Pawpress.  You are welcome to print it out and use it.  If you are an educator, you can use it in the classroom, and if a parent or grandparent, please feel free to use it at home.  Our hope is you find it helpful!  The most important ingredient is to insure your young students pay attention to their feelings as they observe, play with and take care of animals.  You'll see some specific questions below to help you help them achieve this goal.  You may be surprised at the outcome!  And you may want to check out some of the Kids' Stories in response to this exercise.  Hope you and your kids have fun with the stories as well! 

Happy tails,


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 the difference?

    Does this story remind you of an experience you have had? Tell us about it.

    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 the writing:


    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 mean?

    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 animals)?

    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. 34
    • 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, p. 52
    • 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.


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