Often, animals are included as part of the elementary-school curriculum. However, there can be many missed opportunities to incorporate a key element—compassion—into the instruction. We can use kids’ love for animals to help them learn academic content and also develop this crucial trait.
View this webinar for a step-by-step guide to creating humane lessons and see how discussing animal rights issues and meeting academic requirements can go hand in hand.
State Education Laws Pertaining to Animals
- New York: “Instruction in the humane treatment of animals”
- California: “Kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures”
- Find laws in your state.
Planning a Lesson to Address Animal Issues
Four Key Elements
- Motivation (How will it motivate and engage students?)
- Accuracy (Is the information that I’m providing accurate?)
- Common Core (What Common Core Learning Standards [CCLS] will it address?)
- Helping Animals (Does the lesson include information about the protection of or how to help the animals being discussed?) (This is the element most commonly left out of lessons on animals.)
This is the story of three young people who go to an animal-free circus and hear about Daisy the elephant. In the course of listening to her story, they learn about elephants and become aware of the cruelty inherent in forcing animals to perform in circuses.
- Tap into prior knowledge about elephants.
- Preview vocabulary: captivity, sanctuary.
Read the text aloud or have students read with a partner or independently.
- Ask students to notice key details in the text. Check for understanding after reading. (Examples of questions for basic comprehension: How are the lives of elephants in circuses different from their lives in the wild? What happened to Daisy the elephant? Example of a higher-level question: How does the author feel about using elephants in circuses? What makes you think so?)
- Select an inferencing graphic organizer.
- Provide inferencing questions. Model an example, then have students practice the skill with partners or independently. (Example: Why do you think Tricia and Aunt Athena believe that elephants who live in circuses have a hard life?)
- Model how to choose details from the text and combine them with prior knowledge to create an inference using the graphic organizer. (Example: “I read that in circuses, elephants are taken away from their families and kept chained up, unable to exercise. I know that if someone separated me from my family, I’d feel really sad. And if I couldn’t exercise, I’d suffer. So I infer that Aunt Athena and Tricia know that elephants living in circuses don’t get to exercise and roam around freely, and they’re separated from their families. Family and freedom are important for a happy life, so the elephants must be very unhappy.”)
- Discuss how to help elephants used in circuses:
- Speak up for elephants. Tell family and friends why animal-free circuses are better for them.
- Don’t go to circuses that use captive animals. If people stop paying to see elephants, circuses will stop using them.
- Tell local officials to ban circuses with captive animals.
- Learn about organizations that help animals. Find out other ways that you can help animals by contacting organizations that care for and help protect them.
- Extend learning with a virtual field trip to The Elephant Sanctuary.
CCLS addressed with inferencing lesson:
- RL.3.1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
- RL.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- RL.5.1. Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Need assistance with presenting information about how to help the animals discussed in your lesson?
- FREE lessons and activities
- Order FREE “Share the World” kit
- Order FREE materials from TeachKind
- PETA Kids humane book list
Common Core Standards: © Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.