Therapy animals are used more and more often as we discover how much value they can add to healing and learning for people of all ages. Check here to read current news stories that exhibit the miracles that these animals can bring to us.
I am a huge animal lover and am/have been owned by several pets. Around my son’s 3rd birthday we were concerned about his speech development. He wasn’t much of a talker, but he was an expert at getting his needs met using other methods. He reminded me of the rabbit in the Frosty the Snowman special with all his non-verbal communication. He didn’t see a need to talk! Around that same time we got a new golden retriever puppy, Katy. Katy saw Sam as another puppy playmate and as she was growing she could get a little rambunctious with Sam and sometimes knock him over.
Of course, we worked with training Katy, she’s now a proud graduate of the Canine Good Citizenship program, but part of it was also teaching Sam to use the commands of sit, off, and down in a strong voice. Sam very quickly learned that talking and using his voice served a great purpose and he started using it more and more, not just with Katy, but with all of us. There was many a morning I would wake up to find Sam laying next to Katy’s bed chattering away telling her all about his adventures, hopes, and dreams. It was such a touching sight to see.
Katy is an extremely tolerant dog and she loves anyone and everyone! She would make an ideal therapy dog and in fact, we went through some training to lead to it. Unfortunately, the program we were working with ended their classes and Katy ended up having a series of knee surgeries to correct joint issues in both of her knees and a fight with osteosarcoma which resulted in her front leg needing to be amputated so her career as a therapy dog has never been realized.
Katy spends hours at home providing us constant unconditional love and “therapy” though. One of the things she loves more than anything is to lay with us and be read to! She’s sat through the entire Harry Potter series twice!
I’ve seen the value that the love and attention of a pet can bring to the mental well-being of the people around them. They really can be miracle workers! I would love to see the use of reading dogs in schools increase!
As part of my Wonder Novel Study, I created a reading informational activity about therapy dogs. I offer it outside of the novel study as a free download in my store. It is a wonderful activity to explore the use and benefits of therapy animals. This is a great activity to celebrate all the animal heroes in our life for National Therapy Animal Day!
I am sad to report that Katy’s osteosarcoma returned in her lungs and spine. We sadly had to release her from the pain. Katy was such an important member of our family and is the dog of my children’s childhoods. She will be deeply missed and loved always.
In honor of Katy, and all the wonderful therapy animals out there, Happy National Therapy Animal Day!
Of all the curriculum materials I create novel units are my favorite, but creating my Wonder Novel Study to accompany the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio has by far been my all time favorite! The encouragement of building a community and building empathy among students is so rich with this novel.
Summary of Wonder: (From the Book Jacket)
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
Auggie’s struggles are written on his face. You go into the book knowing you are going to read about a kid who’s going to have a tough struggle. The surprising thing with this book is that you end up realizing that the other “normal” characters who seem to have it all on the outside, they are beautiful, rich, smart, etc, all have some type of struggle as well. This book really makes you look beyond the cover and delve deeper underneath. It is a wonderful resource to strengthen empathy and learn to not be so quick to judge a “book by its cover” so to speak. This led me to a great after the book writing activity that corresponds with Plato’s quote: “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
One thing I really love about the unit I was able to create was how the text lent itself to higher order thinking questions. There are very few knowledge level (recall) or even comprehension level questions in the comprehension packet section of the unit. The vast majority are analysis and evaluation level questions because that is just where the text leads you. The book is just so thought-provoking!
I loved how R.J. Palacio subtly adds the character of Daisy the dog as the only soul who does not “see” Auggie’s facial abnormalities. Through Daisy’s interactions, Ms. Palacio shows the unconditional love of animals. This prompted me to add a Reading Informational activity to the unit involving therapy dogs and animal-assisted therapy. I know teachers are looking for Common Core-aligned resources to help with Reading Informational Text skills so I added this small activity to the unit. You can download this activity for free by clicking on the image below:
As you can tell I loved this book. It is one of the best books I have read and I think it would serve well in any 4-6th-grade classroom. However, I do have one minor complaint. In the book, Auggie also deals with a hearing loss and there is a chapter that describes his experience in getting fitted for a hearing aid for the first time. I also live with hearing loss and have worn hearing aids for several years. In some ways, Ms. Palacio was spot on describing Auggie’s feelings about wearing hearing aids around his friends and how he may be perceived. However, Ms. Palacio was very off the mark when she described the experience of getting hearing aids and how they work. This is very understandable as I am sure most people do think that wearing hearing aids is very much like wearing glasses, which is how Ms.Palacio describes the experience. In reality, it is nothing like that. After reading this chapter in the book I felt so strongly that I felt the need to add my own supplement to the unit explaining what it is really like to wear hearing aids and have a hearing loss in our modern world. I hope this supplement is helpful to your students. This resource is included in the Wonder Novel Study and is also offered as a stand-alone item here:
As I mentioned I loved this book! 🙂 It hits on so many issues in the modern classroom and appeals to such a wide audience. It really is a must-read and a wonderful addition to any classroom instruction.
Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!