Are you thinking about getting AnimalTales but not sure what to expect? This blog is intended to give you a better idea of how AnimalTales can be used in your classroom.
The AnimalTales program is easily adaptable; each activity can be modified to fit the needs of your class. You can spend as much or as little time as you want with each book, and pick and choose the activities that you include but the intent is to focus on a new book each week you have the program.
Spending time discussing each book and doing the activities help students understand the concepts and themes of the books and provides them an opportunity to create their own meaning. Having the activities connected to the curriculum ensures students are meeting outcomes in the Alberta Program of Studies.
We chatted with Dolores Andressen, a Grade 2/3 teacher in St. Albert, who has used AnimalTales for many years. She has great insight on how to make good use of the program in the classroom.
How many times have you used AnimalTales and what is it about the program that makes you keep using it?
I have been using the AnimalTales program in my class for [about] eight years. I have used the program for both Grade 2 and 3. I think that the stories are excellent! They are well chosen for the overall theme of kindness and they develop the underlying themes very well. The activities are varied from discussion questions to writing about a favourite animal to researching the pros and cons and costs of owning a pet.
How do you use the program?
I usually introduce the whole theme of kindness and compassion in general to the class at the beginning of the year but it is one that we return to many times. It starts when we are looking at classroom rules and what makes a good classmate and friend. I find that the focus of animals in the AnimalTales program helps the students to understand and feel the emotions of care and kindness in a more basic non-threatening way so that they feel less inhibited with their reactions.
How much of a time commitment is the program?
It depends on what you do with the program but the books can all be presented, discussed and worked with in a three week time period. Usually we take three or four days on each book depending on the specific activities. From there you can continue the program by connecting to other resources but you would not need the books after three weeks.
Is there a certain time of the year that you find the program is most effective?
Using the books from AnimalTales would fit at various times during the year. I have used them in September or later in the fall and also during January as we lead into February which generally has a kindness theme because of Valentine’s Day. Creating the Kindness Tree is a great bulletin board activity for the month of February. It can be worked in at any time during the year, but earlier is better than later because as a class you can relate to the program more if it is developed earlier.
Do you notice a difference in your students about using the program?
The students are able to recognize the emotions and feelings of kindness and compassion in themselves and others. They also demonstrate kindness more easily and often after spending time discussing the stories and participating in the AnimalTales activities.
How do you continue to build on the ideas and themes addressed in AnimalTales once you are finished with the program?
The AnimalTales program is a lead in to the whole topic of compassion, kindness and social justice which is an overarching, year-long theme of our classroom. From there we can delve into other resources that are available to us.For example, a visit from a local animal hospital.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for teachers using AnimalTales for the first time?
Pick a month when you have some time, probably in Language Arts, to spend with the books. The books are all great read-alouds and the activities are well presented in the program. If that is all you do with the AnimalTales program, that is great! But you will probably find that interest in your class is high and you will look for other ways to keep the topic alive.
You can see a full description of what is included in each package by clicking on the grade level descriptions, here. If you are thinking about getting AnimalTales but still have some questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!