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Preschool and early primary teachers can teach children to be kind to animals by using a well-known nursery rhyme. The nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb was written in the 19th century and contains a valuable lesson for all children, the importance of being kind to animals. The simple rhyme is the ideal way to teach children an importance lesson they can carry with them throughout their lives.
Teachers can use a copy of the rhyme in picture-book form to illustrate this lesson for students. An excellent version of the story is a book published in 1989 with photographs by Bruce McMillan. The book features contemporary photos of a young African-American girl caring for her lamb.
Before the lesson begins, locate a lamb stuffed animal and bring it to the classroom. Sit the children on the floor in the storytime area, and show them how to pet the toy in a gentle manner. This will give them hands-on practice on how to be kind to animals as they pet them. Place the lamb on the floor and ask the students to raise their hands if any of them own a pet. Allow some time for discussion, since small children love to talk about any animals they may have in the home.
After allowing students time to discuss the different pets they own, ask them what pets need in order to be healthy and happy. Sample responses may include food, water, and a place to sleep. After praising children for their answers, tell the students they will now hear about a girl and a pet that followed her everywhere she went.
At that point, show the students the book Mary Had a Little Lamb. Talk about the book cover and the author. Be sure to show the title page as well.
Next, read the story to the children, showing the pictures to them as the book is read. During the reading of the book, some teachers may choose to talk about the pictures as well. This is a visual example of what children need to do in order to be kind to animals.
Students should take note of Mary petting the lamb, feeding it, spending time with it, and treating it kindly. After reading the story, ask the children why the lamb liked to be around Mary. Students will probably respond by commenting that Mary was nice to the lamb and took care of it. Tell the students that everyone in the world should follow Mary's example and be kind to animals.
Remind the students that if they tease their pets, hit them, pull their tails, or display other cruel acts, their pets will not want to be around them. Discuss the fact that the lamb followed Mary everywhere because it loved her. A pet cannot love someone who tries to hurt it or neglects it.
After discussion of the book, ask students to draw pictures of a pet they have or would like to have. They can draw or write about all the things they need to do in order to be kind to animals. Another alternative is to distribute old magazines and newspapers and allow students to cut pictures of things that pets need. They can choose pictures of pet food, water, a person caring for a pet, or any other picture that illustrates the lesson. Children can then glue the pictures to construction paper.