Monday, January 16, 2012

Teaching Friendship with Real Life Animal Stories

I am a LOVER of bookstores. I religiously browse Barnes and Noble and Books A Million for new books to use in my guidance program. Lately I kept noticing non-fiction animal stories with sub-titles like, "The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship" and "The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship."  How could I resist?!  What better way to capture students' interest than to use real life stories and photographs of animal friendships! I decided to teach these books as a friendship unit and I started it this year in 2nd grade.  The stories and lessons were a huge success! Here are the books I used....


I started with A Friend for Einstein 
by Charlie Cantrell and Dr. Rachel Wagner
First, I explained the unit to the students and they were very excited to see pictures and hear stories of real life animals. I read them the story and throughout the book we talked about how Einstein was very different from the other horses and how this made it hard for him to find friends. I could tell that they instantly connected with Einstein because I heard many things like "Aw, poor Einstein," "I would be his friend," and "He's soooo cute!"   The moment I knew the lesson was going to be successful was when I heard one student say, "They shouldn't leave him out just because he's small!" Yes! I thought. They get the moral of the story: to be nice to everyone and not to exclude anyone just because they are different. 

Next, I showed them an ActiveInspire lesson I created on the book. I used a LOT of information from
Here is a glimpse of what you will find: 

There are also videos, and pictures, and a teacher discussion guide on this website to use in your lesson.

To send the final message home for my class, I passed out a blank index card to every student and had them write 3 things that make them different on one side and then draw pictures of these things on the back.  This was a way to celebrate our differences and learn to accept everyone.  The teacher posted them on a bulletin board with the title, "Our Differences Make Us Special!"

The next week we read Owen and Mzee: The True Story of A Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu
Again, I read the story and the kids were fascinated by the pictures.  After the story we talked about taking care of your friends and what it means to be loyal.  There is an amazing website that accompanies this story:  We used the video maker on the ActiveBoard to bring this lesson to life. 

We finished the unit with Suryia and Roscoe by Dr. Bhagavan Antle and Tarra and Bella by Carol Buckley
I spent one guidance lesson on each of these stories continuing to teach the characteristics of good friendship. I used these websites as supplements to the lessons: and

Has anyone else used these stories in their guidance program? If so, please leave a comment and share your ideas!


  1. I love this! I have shown classes the CBS News clip about Tara & Bella and then discussed respect, individual differences, and friendship, but I had no idea there were books! I will have to check these out! I saw your post on the School Counselor Blog...I too am looking for followers!