With spring approaching and National Pet Week just around the corner, what better than getting kids excited about school than with some special pet-themed lesson plans.
Did you know that 67% of American families have at least one pet? It’s undeniable that children love animals, and though they’re not able to bring their furry friend to class, taking this excitement into the classroom is both fun and educational. Below we’ve compiled a list of the best lesson plans and classroom activity resources for teachers who want to teach standards-based lessons on dogs, cats, and other household pets — whether it’s during National Pet Week or any other time of year.
It’s never too early to get kids excited about learning or animals! Lesson plans on pets are a great way to help preschoolers engage in creative play, learn meaningful vocabulary and animal sounds, or just get their bodies moving.
Pet Themes for Preschool has dozens of activities to help build a pet-themed classroom or a pet-themed unit for preschoolers, including art projects, movement-based activities, drama lessons, and even snack ideas.
Elementary: Grades K-5
Kindergarten through fifth grade is the ideal time to build one-off lesson plans or a comprehensive unit focused on pets. There are dozens of resources on the internet that can be tailored to meet a variety of standards and work across multiple subject areas. So whether you’re looking for a pet lesson for reading and writing, math, science, art, or social studies, there’s something for every subject area.
Scholastic’s free lesson plans have several options based on books. You can search through their resource page, but we’ve compiled a few of the best for you here:
There’s a lesson on Pinky and Rex and the Just-Right Pet that has both an art and creative writing activity included; one on My Dog is Lost! where students create a map to help Juanito find his lost dog; and First Pets: Presidential Best Friends which is about some of the first pets of the White House throughout the years.
For another text-based lesson plan, ReadWriteThink.org has a lesson plan on Eric Carle’s book, Have You Seen My Cat? where students create their own story using high-frequency words from the text.
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs (PETA)
To give kids an early introduction to animal activism, there’s It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, from PETA, which addresses the issue of overpopulation in animal shelters and the euthanization of unadopted dogs and cats. It says it’s geared to K-2, but it could probably be used with later grades as well.
Since this is a heavier topic, it’s a good idea to send a letter home before starting to let parents know what you’ll be discussing in class.
How to Take Care of My Pet
For something a little lighter, introduce elementary students to basic research skills and computer literacy with How to Take Care of My Pet, which asks students to choose a pet and use the internet to research how to take care of it.
Middle School: Grades 6-8
For junior high students, lesson plans on pets can be a great way to introduce more advanced concepts like persuasion and advertising.
Education World has great lesson plans that work well for middle schoolers, including Pet Pellets, where students design and market a new dog food, and “Pet” Project, where students craft an argument to persuade a parent or teacher to take on a new pet.
There are also tons of resources from PETA that are perfect for junior high students, such as Debate Kit: Should All Companion Animals Be Spayed and Neutered?, Cognitive Dissonance and How We Treat Animals, What Winter Is Like When You’re a Backyard Dog.
High School: Grades 9-12
At first, it may not seem like high school is the ideal setting for lesson plans on pets, but there are plenty of ways for older students to get in on the fun too. Many of these lesson plans promote critical thinking and civic responsibility.
Given the past year, what better way to ease students back into in-person learning than with high-engagement lessons like Pet Perspective from Education World, where students conduct a research project and write a report on the responsibilities of specially trained pets like seeing-eye dogs, emotional support animals, or other working dogs and cats.
National Geographic: Pet Cloning Debate
Alternatively, consider using an article like, We Can Clone Pet Dogs–But Is That a Good Idea? from National Geographic to jump-start a class debate. This and other articles on National Geographic’s Classroom Resources portal can be downloaded at different reading levels, which can allow you to differentiate for English Language Learners or students with learning disabilities.
Special Subject Areas: ESL
Being in another country, or studying a different language, can be unfamiliar and scary for kids. One way to help them feel comfortable is by talking about the things they love. Pets and Possessions is a lesson on the verb “to have” that helps students talk about the animals they have at home, as well as other beloved possessions. It also provides a review of numbers 1-10.
More Pet-Based Lesson Plans and Activities
AKC: Pre-K through 12th Grade
The American Kennel Club provides standards-based lessons on dogs for Preschool through 12th grade, including lessons for exceptional learners and English language learners. Whether you’re looking for a hands-on creative activity like Build a Crate for little kiddos or Investigating Canine Coat Inheritance with Punnett squares for burgeoning scientists, there’s something for every age group. Lessons for older students also have pre-written learning objectives and are aligned to common core standards.
Pets in the Classroom
Most pet lesson plans on the internet focus on dogs and cats, but why should they get all the fun? Pets in the Classroom has an annual pet lesson plan competition with categories for a wide range of animals including small animals/birds, reptiles/amphibians, and aquarium/fish lessons. The winning lessons are available for free.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: 4th, 7th, 10th Grade
Chicken Soup for the Soul and American Humane have also developed an entire curriculum around their award-winning book, Humane Heroes designed to teach 4th, 7th, and 10th graders about animal conservation and advocacy.
MSPCA Angell: Grades K-12
MSPCA Angell has dozens of humane animal-themed lessons for K-12. They’re all aligned to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, but are easily adaptable to Common Core or other state standards. Some of the best lessons they have are for junior high students on ethical dilemmas — whether or not to declaw cats, have classroom pets, adopt a horse, etc.
National Humane Education Society
Lastly, the National Humane Education Society has over a dozen free lesson plans that teach students about the humane treatment of animals, while also building reading comprehension, math, and science skills.
Children love animals, and pets provide a deep sense of love, comfort, and stability in both good and bad times. These animal themed lesson plans offer a great way to ease students into the school routine and get them excited about learning, whether they’re in preschool or soon to be off to college. We hope you found them helpful and encouraging. Thanks for all your hard work, teachers!