There are many fun and exciting elements of this 2nd grade program, each specifically designed to inspire children’s imaginations, build confidence, encourage compassion, and engage children in reading and writing with meaning and purpose. Some of the program highlights include:
One of the essential components of this program is the weekly BoneWork assignment that children do at home with their stuffed animal (or real pet, if they have one). These assignments are designed to help children to develop daily reading habits while enjoying quality time with their stuffed animals and/or pets. Each week, the children turn in their BoneWork assignment during class and receive “Golden Bones” which are collected on a visual chart, the “Doggone Awesome Reading Rewards Chart” (see below).
Introduced on the first day of class in the program, the Tricky Trouble Words Doggy Bags are usually one of the children’s favorite components of the program. Each time the child (and their stuffed animal) get stuck on a word they don’t know, the child prints the word on a piece of paper and places it into their doggy bag. Then, each night before they do their 20 minutes of BoneWork reading, the kids practice the words in their bags. Each time they get the word lickety-split, no problem at all, they get to put a check mark beside the word. Once they have three check marks beside the word, they get to transfer it onto their “I’m Doggone Brilliant!” boards (described below).
When the children bring in their completed BoneWork assignments each week, each child earns one “Golden Bone” which is then displayed on the visual reading chart. We add up how many Golden Bones we have earned for that week, and then the class gets to move that many spaces on the wall game.
As they play the board game, the students occasionally land on a “Pick a Card” space. The question cards are designed to teach children humane ways of relating to, acting around, and caring for dogs. If your class reaches the end of the game before the end of the program (which hopefully they will), the children earn a special reading reward to be enjoyed by the entire class. This reward could be extra recess/gym/or art, to play a game that the class loves, a story or surprise guest, a visit from the principal telling the students how proud (s)he is of them, or something even more creative such as the children getting to choose the order of subjects for the day or being allowed to chew gum for the day. The important thing is that the children are motivated as a group to achieve this special reward.
Over the course of the program, each child develops his or her own I’m Doggone Brilliant Board, which is like a glorified brag board that visually represents all of that child’s successes over the eight weeks that they participate. Not only are mastered words placed onto these boards, but certificates that they earn throughout the course of the program, activities that they do that teach children about kindness towards animals, and other visual reminders of goals they have met are displayed here. After eight weeks, the children give a one- to two-minute oral presentation using their Doggone Brilliant Boards as part of their “Doggone Awesome Reading Celebration” where each child is celebrated for their hard work and accomplishments.
During the first two weeks of the program, the children and the teacher are encouraged to set a goal for how many words they would like to learn over the course of the eight weeks. Keeping this goal in mind and tracking their progress as they learn empowers children to chart their own successes and remain focused on achieving their goal.
These little buddies are a core part of the program, and they feature especially during the first four lessons as the children are learning and practicing essential reading skills. However, even when it is not specifically indicated that the children should involve their stuffed animals during lessons, teachers are encouraged to allow their students to keep their stuffed animals with them whenever they are working on one of the lessons during the 8 weeks of this program. This keeps children motivated to participate because the stuffed animals are a special part of the lessons that they can look forward to.
Teachers are also encouraged to pay particular attention to how the children treat their little stuffed buddies during the course of the program. Because these animals are “stand-ins” as practice for learning with and reading to real dogs and other animals in the children’s lives, teachers might remind students that they are to be treated gently and with love and respect. Children who are aggressive and who tend to punch, sit on, or otherwise mistreat these stuffed animals should be reminded that this is not the appropriate way to treat live animals.
Finally, if these stuffed animals are going to be kept in the classroom for the duration of the program, it is fun for the students to create names and “collars” for the dogs. This can be easily done by cutting a strip of colored paper and writing the dog’s name on it in bold ink, and then taping it together around the dog’s neck. Kids love feeling like they have “adopted” a little buddy for the duration of the program, and teachers can then wash and keep the stuffed dogs for future classes when the program is complete. Alternatively, parents or schools can purchase the stuffed dogs for their children each year so that the children can keep their dog at the conclusion of the program.