Lesson Plan Ideas

Lesson Plan Image

Animal Heroes - Grades 4-6


  1. Understand the ways in which animals work for us or help us.
  2. Read and discuss stories and/or articles about working animals.
  3. Develop research questions.
  4. Gather and present information on working animals.
  5. Read and respond to true and fictional stories about animal heroes.
  6. Appreciate how animals are often stereotyped in stories and how these stereotypes can affect our attitudes and behaviour towards animals.


Children are usually interested in animals, so animal stories - true and fictional - can motivate reluctant readers. In addition, many students do not appreciate the many ways in which animals work to help us, so the content increases appreciate of our animal friends. Discussion of animal stories is a good way to address issues animal stereotyping.

Curriculum Connection: Alberta Education Program of Studies

English Language Arts

Grade 4: Respond to Texts
Grade 5: Respond to Texts
Grade 6: Respond to Texts
Grade 4: Manage ideas and information
Grade 5: Manage ideas and information
Grade 6: Manage ideas and information


Working Animals

Brainstorm about:

Have students research one type of working animal and present the information in an essay or a class presentation. Some good resources include:

Have students make up interview questions for a handler of a working animal or for the animal, and then invite a handler to visit the class.

Some questions for discussion:

Animal Heroes - True Stories

Sometimes ordinary pets help us in really heroic ways. Reading short descriptions of animal heroes can be a good starting point for students to do some creative thinking and writing.


Building Background/Predicting

What makes a person or an animal a hero in our eyes? Will this be different for people and animals? For example, some people are heroes in sports or because of great accomplishments or brave actions. Animals tend to be heroes mainly due to bravery.

Have students think about animal heroes that they have heard about. Is there a difference between fictional animal heroes ( e.g. Lassie) and real animal heroes? What types of animals can be heroes? Only dogs?

Ask students to predict what kinds of heroic things an animal hero might do. Why would animals do this for people?

Vocabulary Building

What kind of adjectives come to mind when you think about animal heroes? Make a list of adjectives, e.g. strong, brave, loyal, fearless, courageous, fast, smart, obedient, trainable.


Read together the short story about Jake, Dog of Valour.


In small groups have students share their response to the story. Some questions for discussion:

Here are some good sources of more true short stories about animal heroes:

Have students choose a story to read and then write:


Animal Heroes - Literature and Movies

Start by having students think about animals they have read about or seen in movies. What type of characters are these animals - the heros or the villains? Do certain types of animals seem to be shown as good or bad? Are the animals shown in realistic ways or are they more like people?

Help students to understand the meaning of stereotypes and how they can affect our thinking. Ask them if they can think of endings to the sentences like:

Are these statements commonly believed? Are they true? How can they negatively affect the person or animal they refer to?

Have students choose a book to read independently in which an animal is a main character. Some good books on animals for this age group:

Some good websites recommending books about animals are:

Have students do a book review which discusses:

Identifying stereotypes

As a class make a list of all the different types of animals that students read about and their main characteristics. Do some animals tend to be villains and others good guys? Are there some animal stereotypes here, for example, all wolves are evil, all dogs are brave? Have students look at the descriptors to see what kind of image is suggested. Is this image different from the real life animal?

For a few animals make a list together of fictional characteristics versus real characteristics. Cats are a good choice to discuss as there are many stereotypes about cats which can lead to their poor treatment.

Additional Activities

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has prepared a lesson, Children’s Bookshelf in which older students work in pairs to review and evaluate books about animals for younger children and produce an annotated bibliography. The focus is on how animals can be portrayed in literature in ways that reinforce good or bad attitudes towards animals. It is designed for grades 7-8, but could easily be adapted for lower grades.

Kitty IQ - A fun ASPCA trivia quiz about famous cats in literature and movies.

Poetic Justice: Understanding the Life of a Tethered Dog - Humane Society of the US Youth poetry writing unit focusing on how language creates mood and meaning. Supplementary materials for this lesson are listed below.

For students:

For teachers:

Alberta SPCA poetry lesson unit (grades 3-7) in which students create poems expressing facts, feelings and emotions about animals, animal issues, and the human-animal bond.