Friday, November 10, 2006

I picked up Stanley from the breeder four years ago this New Year’s Eve. He was a tiny bundle of white fluff, full of energy and wanting to play. I’d never trained a dog by myself before so we went to “Puppy School.” Stanley was a stellar student. We gained a “Canine Good Citizens Award” and we contemplated having him trained as a therapy dog. Of course, my friends and family never believed me because he didn’t exhibit those traits at home. Four years later – he still doesn’t.

I know when Stanley is upset with me for working too much – he’ll pee on my computer bag. He knows when I will be traveling again – so he steals pantyhose and undergarments from my suitcase as I pack. And he has lately decided that he is enough a member of the family to join us for dinner – on the table of course. He’s a smart dog – probably smarter than me!! And at the end of the day when he is curled up next to me snoring softly in my ear, it’s hard to be angry with his antics.

So you can see that I have a real connection with Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, written and illustrate by Mark Teague. In fact, I do believe that I hear Stanley’s voice in Ike, who is sent to Brotweiler Obedience School by his owner Mrs. LaRue after several disturbing incidences at home including eating chicken pie, howling while she is away, and ripping her camel hair coat.

In addition to using Ike’s letters to teach about voice, this picture book is ideal to teach about persuasion and the art of exaggeration. For example, as Ike paints a picture of the “warden” and his “severe” punishment for not sitting and staying (shown in black and white), reality is a comfortable environment of happy dogs and a caring teacher shown in color. Students will get a clear picture of how to provide facts to support their particular opinion, as well as how to pull apart the editorials of others to ask additional questions.

The Writing Fix provides interactive activities for students and Scholastic you provides some additional ideas for using Dear Mrs. LaRue with students but a piece you will certainly want to share with students is how the author gets ideas for his stories:

“For Mark Teague, a story starts from his "notebooks full of sketches and scribbles, strange little drawings and phrases…" His inspiration for the character of Ike in Dear Mrs. LaRue came from two dogs in his life. His own dog, Earl, was a master food thief, and his brother's dog, Ali, actually limped when he wanted attention!”

The more we can have students use writers notebooks and write about things that are important to them, the more engaged they will be as writers. And they’ll keep on writing!!

So - what's your pet been up to lately?

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Pets crack me up. I still find it very amusing that we send them to obedience school to behave. Theresa said it. They are smart. They don't need obedience school; we do.

I used to say that my dogs were stupid. They would run away when I called them. They would chew socks even when I scolded them. They would not fetch a ball. But let's see who is stupid!

Who continued to call them even when they did not come? I did. Who continued to leave socks out for them to find and chew? I did. Who fetched the ball when they did not? I did. Who would cuddle with them at night even after a bad day? I did. (And apparently Theresa still does!) We humans are certainly obedient.

The thing is that we love them. They are a part of the family. They, like my family, must have approval of all new friends and dates!

I moved past dogs and now am the proud owner of 2 indoor cats and one cat that continues to stay in my garage. Not sure why he stays with me except that I have made him a cozy bed in the garage, feed him every day and give him a hug every time I catch him. See how smart he is! He has a furnished apartment that includes daily meals! And he allows me to pet him once a day. How lucky am I?

The other two know that I exist for them and them only. They allow me to lay on "their" king-sized bed only because I feed them and turn on the heat on cold days. (I think that I emit heat for them too so they see that as a plus as well since they lay so close to me that I can not move!) They allow me to move furniture (which I do quite often) because they love riding around on it as I sit on my butt and push the furniture across the rooms. They also permit me to read as long as they can sit between me and the book that I am reading and look directly into my eyes.

My favorite part is making the bed. Have you ever made a bed with the assistance of two cats? Not only does one go under the covers and then the other attacks, but they continue to do this layer after layer. When this is finally complete, then they get on top of my pillows and begin to bathe? (Yes, picture me pulling out a new pillowcase each evening.) And why do they do this? I allow them. I obey them and as long as I continue to do that, they won't send me to obedience school.