Teaching with Class Pets
The book series “Adventures with Humphrey” by Betty Birney (www.bettybirney.com/humphreyville.html) has been around for 10 years. I only learned about him 2 years ago when I was teaching second grade. When I began to read the first book in the series to my students, we were all hooked.
This series is about a spunky little hamster who was brought into the classroom by a substitute teacher and when the regular teacher came back, he wasn’t so sure she liked him. Humphrey is a character who tells of the adventures in the classroom from his point of view. He loves helping to solve problems and loves to learn. He even takes the tests the best that he can. Humphrey has a notebook and pencil he keeps hidden in his cage so he can learn. He gets to go home on weekends with different students and always has different adventures. Humphrey is not always successful at solving problems right away but always manages to figure it out.
My students and I decided that we wanted a class pet. So I began to research and see how I could make that happen. Through my research, I discovered the “Pets in the Classroom” grants for teachers (http://www.petsintheclassroom.org/) and decided I was going to apply. Getting the approval didn’t take long at all.
I decided to follow the example of my neighboring coworker. She had a gerbil and gerbils are less likely to bite or escape like a hamster (no offense to Humphrey – who escapes often). So when I brought the gerbil in we decided to call him “Filbert”. We spent a lot of time watching and observing him. My students loved to give him treats and would save carrots from their lunches for him. They would take turns giving him a handful of feed each day. We watched to see what he liked to eat best. We even wrote stories about him as if he could participate in class with us, like Humphrey. We wanted to be able to hold him and take him home, like Humphrey. Unfortunately, we were not able to make that happen.
We learned a lot from Filbert. We learned how to care for him. He helped my students relax and made us happy. We loved when he ran on his wheel and laughed when he would poop in his ball. Eventually, we were amazed when he would make a nest in his ball. We learned he had quite the personality (like Humphrey)!
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Best of ALL, he encouraged some of my struggling readers to read — ESPECIALLY if it was a Humphrey book! Thank you to Betty Birney and Humphrey for such entertaining and encouraging stories.
You can find Humphrey books here.
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