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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

Responsibility: Caring for Classroom "Virtual" Pets

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/ps142/petcare/index.htm

How it works:
It s
eems like all children want a pet! Having one can bring years of fun and provide a real learning experience for children. Responsibility gives kindergarten and first grade students an understanding of the commitment and responsibilities necessary for pet ownership by having a classroom "virtual" pet--an animal they research on the Internet, create, and chart the care and feeding of. 

The initial part of the unit is a whole group experience. Students vote for a classroom pet and then listen to stories to gather facts about the chosen animal. With the teacher's assistance, the second part of the unit allows pairs of students to research information on the Internet and answer their questions about the animal they have chosen. Depending on their ability, the students then draw or color their selected pets, cut them out, and make model pet homes. The information gathered from the Internet dictates how the homes are made and which items their pets need or might enjoy--for instance, a water bottle, toys to play with, an exercise wheel, and a container for food. A daily pet-care chart is developed based on the animals' needs, and allows the students to keep track of when the pets were cleaned, given water, fed, exercised, and played with. The students are responsible for finding some free time each day to address these needs and they use their charts for three weeks to make certain the tasks are completed.

Standards addressed:  
Students identify and use voting as a way to make decisions, discuss data using appropriate terms (more than/less than, most/least), construct a bar graph displaying real-world data, listen to stories, recognize the sequence of events by acting out the story, use a combination of words and pictures in their writing, and distinguish between reality and fantasy. They  learn to compromise and participate in group planning and discussion, are introduced to the Internet, communicate ideas based on gathered information, and use visuals to present information orally on a topic.

Materials used: 
Required materials include a computer with Internet connection, a digital camera, and chart paper. They also need materials for drawing and/or coloring, and for making model homes (shoe boxes, toilet paper rolls, Styrofoam cups, paint, newspaper, scissors, markers, paper fasteners, pipe cleaners, and felt).

The students:
This program is suitable for any early childhood kindergarten or first grade classroom. The teacher determines the paired partners based on heterogeneous grouping. A low student/teacher ratio allows for the time necessary to spend on the Internet while the other children are involved in making their pet homes with a paraprofessional. 

Overall value:
The students enjoy creating their pets and homes, and are conscientious about caring for them. They are eager to share the information obtained from the Internet with their peers during their oral presentations. They build an awareness of their role as citizens by learning about responsibilities and rules, and have opportunities to compromise and identify voting as a fair way to make decisions. Responsibility allows the students to work collaboratively and learn that people in groups work together, listen to each other, and make plans together. The students' interest is easily maintained throughout the unit. 

Web sites should be bookmarked ahead of time. Making the model pet homes required several class periods. Small groups worked best while making the homes, and it required quite a bit of assistance from our classroom paraprofessional.


About the teacher:
Cindy Lewis teaches a self-contained early-childhood (K-1) special education class at PS 142 in lower Manhattan. Her students have been identified as speech and language impaired, learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, and multiply handicapped. She recently completed a year on sabbatical studying computers and the application of technology in the classroom.


Subject Areas: 
Social Studies
Special Education


Grade Levels: 



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