The first rule of classroom management is to establish routines. Children—and adults—feel at ease and are, therefore, more likely to succeed when they know what to expect. Try mixing these compassionate classroom routines into your daily schedule to make the school day run smoother and to foster empathy for animals in your students.
Care for a Class Plant Instead of a Class ‘Pet’
Hamsters, small reptiles, fish, and other animals don’t belong in the classroom for a number of reasons. Instead, choose a hypoallergenic plant—or several—for students to take care of. You can assign specific tasks—like watering, dusting, and grooming the plant—to different students throughout the school year or have one student be in charge of the plant for a week at a time. You can even name your class plant! Students will practice having responsibility, enjoy watching the plant grow, learn about plant anatomy, and breathe fresh, clean air, all without harming animals.
Use Appropriate Language When Talking About Animals
It can be a hard habit to break, even for teachers, but gently remind students that animals aren’t to be referred to as “it” or “that” but rather as “he,” “she,” or “they.” If you’re an English teacher, you can even teach a lesson on the importance and proper usage of personal pronouns. All teachers can incentivize this practice by having an “It” Jar in their classrooms. While you’re at it, remove other harmful language—such as, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse!” and “kill two birds with one stone”—from conversations and replace it with friendlier idioms.
Incorporate Rescue Stories Into Your Lessons
Stories of people helping animals are all over the internet, and sharing them is an excellent way to begin or end many lessons. Rescue videos reveal the stark realities that many animals face every day, but their happy endings motivate students to take action, making them ideal for learners of all ages and abilities. Show a quick clip at the beginning of class to get students thinking, or wrap up the day with a heartwarming video to leave them feeling inspired. Welcome them to share rescue stories that they find online or to create their own.
Have Students Read to Animals
Many animal shelters offer programs in which students can visit animals and read to them. This is fun and low-pressure for children and allows animals to soak up some much-needed love and attention. If this isn’t available to you, purchase toy animals from a thrift store and let students read to them in class. Encourage students to hold the toys while reading and to ask them or the real animals questions like “What story would you like me to read to you today?” and “Did you like that part of the story?” Although animals can’t respond to us in our language, we can still consider their thoughts and desires. You can even encourage students to read to their animal companions at home, emphasizing the importance of spending high-quality time with our dogs, cats, or other animals.
Use ‘Student Spotlight’ to Celebrate Students Who Help Animals
Just as TeachKind highlights the work of various humane educators, giving them a chance to share their stories, take time out of your busy school day to make students who demonstrate compassion for animals feel special, too. It can be small, like recognizing a student for referring to animals using personal pronouns. Or you can go all out, presenting students with certificates and showering them with praise for persuading their families to adopt animals from a shelter. The more excited you get about your students helping animals, the more likely they are to do it.
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