The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Awesome Animals

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S SPARK KIDS’ INTEREST IN LEARNING WITH AWESOME ANIMALS!

Black hat

What’s under the magic hat today?

Attention-getting poems, stories, facts and fantasy about animals from around the world that teachers can link to lesson plans.

Children love animals! Use them as teaching tools and watch passive learners transform into more engaged participants in your class.

Think about animals that connect with the history and traditions of your country, are the most famous or best-loved. Let’s say, for example, that an American teacher is teaching fifth grade students about the history of the US postal service. Do I hear kids yawning? Not if the teacher leads into the lesson with this question: Class, have you ever heard of Owney – The US Mail Dog?

Shown in my blog pic below,

Owney, the US Mail Dog, offers a dog-gone catchy key to history!

Owney, the US Mail Dog, offers a dog-gone catchy key to history!

on the cover of a book about his life, Owney inspired me to write a rhyming poem about him after I visited the fascinating US Postal Museum that is part of The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

When I’ve shared Owney’s poem – all eight stanzas (see below) – with students in grades four and five, they’ve asked a slew of questions afterwards – a good indicator of their interest in Owney. A beloved, real-life dog prompts students to listen and learn, in this instance, about history.

Owney – The U.S. Mail Dog  

 Little orphan, Owney, was cold one eve in 1888;

he crept inside Albany, New York’s post office;

cuddled up on mailbags he found on a crate. 


Postal clerks spotted the terrier next ‘morn,

took pity, fed the pup, took him in to stay;

Owney’s place in American history was born.


Owney loved to ride in any rail mail car;

he became mascot of the Railway Mail Service;

the lucky dog traveled to depots near and far.


How Owney got his name is a mystery to this day;

some say it’s from asking who owned the dog;

maybe a man named Owen took Owney on his way.


Owney traveled on trains; he sailed on boats in style.

Before his adventurous life was done

               Owney had crossed a hundred-forty-three-thousand miles!


Owney wore a gift, a very special jacket

with tags that marked his travels.

When Owney ran, his jacket made a jingle jangle racket.


Owney guarded the mail, his reputation spread,

Friends and fans wrote poems about him like,

“Owney is a tramp, please be kind, give him a bed.”


When Owney died in 1897, his story wasn’t done;

the Railway Mail Service Superintendent

placed Owney for visitors to see forever, at the Smithsonian.

Animals, real ones like Owney, as well as stuffed animal toys, can motivate children to master key skills such as becoming competent readers of non-fiction (presented above in poetic form).

Try this activity: Dogs Make the Best Pets! Fact or Opinion? Background: Learning to recognize and write about the difference between fact and opinion is a key part of the new Common Core Curriculum in the US. In an information-driven world, kids worldwide can benefit from knowing how to identify fact and opinion. Follow these steps:

1) If your class has as many dog-lovers (not to mention cat-lovers, gerbil owners, etc.) in it as my classes do, invite kids to bring in a photo of their pet or a pet they wish they owned.

2) Hold up a piece of notebook paper with a photo (like you see in my

Dogs, like Regina Rose, make the best pets! Fact or Opinion?

Dogs, like Regina Rose, make the best pets! Fact or Opinion?

blog pic here that shows sweet Regina Rose) taped to the top of it. Select a photo of a pet that you own now or have owned. If you don’t own a pet, find a photo of a cute dog to use.

3) Point out the title that you’ve written at the top of the paper. Make it read, Dogs Make the Best Pets!

4) Open a discussion with the class about whether your title is fact or opinion. Use the board to note kids’ comments. Explain that their comments can become a word bank (brainstorming) for writing a paper that expresses the opinion that dogs really do make the best pets.

5) Give students the option of changing their titles to suit their true opinions, if they don’t agree with your title, or of changing titles to suit another kind of pet photo they’ve brought to class. For example, some titles might read, Cats Make the Best Pets!

6) Ask kids to tape their pet photos to new sheets of notebook paper and begin writing their opinions about the best pet.

Try this activity with early learners: Little Lamb  Little lambs, like the toy one shown in my blog pic below,

"Let's learn about lambs."

“Let’s learn about lambs.”

aren’t only the subject of nursery rhymes and stories for young children.

Introduce a soft stuffed toy lamb to begin a simple science or social studies lesson with questions like:

  • Where do lambs live?
  • What do lambs like to eat?
  • What do people use lambs’ wool to make? (explaining that lambs get “haircuts” (shearing) a little bit like people do.

Try this activity to spark student interest in research – Finds about Famous Animals – Invite kids to use online and print resources to find out about animals that famous people (historical and current) have owned.

For example, research shows that Britain’s Queen Victoria wrote about her beloved Dachshund, named Dash, in her diary in 1833. England’s current Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently brought home a Cocker Spaniel puppy, but the name is a mystery…which prompts another attentionology trick to share with your class…

…Ask the kids what name they’d give the new royal puppy IF they were invited to do so. Fun!

Check back with Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers, Mid-Week Focus
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Students are having trouble writing connecting sentences between the beginning, middle and end of a story.

Solution: Show toy airplanes, pretending to make them "take off" across notebook paper. Explain to the class that stories, like airplanes, require clear "flight paths."

Related Posts: Become the Classroom of the Traveling Story!