Bad Pets Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: 3–5
This collection of light-hearted, true stories features animals—both wild and tame—that have made headlines as mischief-makers, scoundrels, and goofballs. Most were just doing what comes naturally—like the hungry bears that barged into a restaurant, scared away the diners, and then ate their food. Some, however, seemed to have crime on their minds—like the seagull who stole the same snack from the same store time after time.
The book contains short vignettes organized into intriguing chapters titled “Thieves,” “Intruders,” “Rascals,” “Vandals,” “Hijackers,” “Thugs,” and “Chowhounds.” While those names may seem extreme, they are accurate descriptions of these wild and crazy animals. Students will read about such outrageous animals as the dog who “drove” a garbage truck into the river, the deer that sent students scattering after it crashed into their classroom, and the parrot who kept interrupting a soccer game by imitating the referee’s whistle.
Young readers will laugh out loud at these incredible true tales of rule-breaking animals.
Teaching the Book
Sometimes, pets just don’t know how to behave! Bad Pets tells incredible true stories about animals whose antics range from absurd to zany. The book provides an opportunity for students to practice summarizing and to define words through examples. After-reading activities include researching animal intelligence, making a pet graph, and creating a wanted poster for a law-breaking animal.
Theme Focus: Animals
Comprehension Focus: Summarize
Language Focus: Definition Through Examples
Get Ready to Read
Engage students’ interest in the book by explaining that they will read about:
- a dog that ate a pair of Super Bowl tickets
- a cat that tipped over an aquarium and went fishing for dinner
- a pet parrot that interrupted a soccer game by imitating the referee’s whistle
Ask students to share their own stories of funny or misbehaving animals. Have them discuss a pet, an animal they saw on television, or an animal from the movies.
Preview and Predict
Read the following story titles from the book and ask students to predict what they might be about: “Cat Burglar,” “Home Wrecker,” and “Ruff Ride.”
Definitions through Examples
The animals in the book are organized by various types of bad behavior. As they read, encourage students to use the examples within a particular chapter, such as “Vandals,” to define the words that are the chapter titles. Ask them to write their definition on the vocabulary card.
Print Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- scoundrels (p. 5)
- thieves (p. 7)
- intruders (p. 22)
- rascals (p. 39)
- vandals (p. 53)
- hijackers (p. 65)
- thugs (p. 82)
- chowhounds (p. 95)
Words to Know
Write each vocabulary word, one at a time, on a whiteboard or chart paper. Ask students to give examples of the animals that misbehaved in this way and record the examples beside the word. Then have students volunteer the definitions they wrote for the word based on the examples. For example, a vandal is someone who destroys property. Ask students to check the definition of the word online or in a dictionary.
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read aloud the introductory pages, “Wild and Crazy.” After reading, ask students: Are all the animals in the book pets? What two kinds of animals are included in the collection? Are the stories true or fictional? Confirm that the stories are about both wild and tame animals, the animals are mammals or birds, and the stories are true.
The engaging narrative format of the book lends itself to independent reading by students. Assign students to do a silent reading of the book on their own. After reading a chapter, have students pair with a partner to discuss their reactions and ask and answer questions.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read. Write the question on chart paper or the whiteboard. How smart are animals?
Remind students that a summary is a short statement of the most important ideas or events in a story. Teach students the steps of summarizing, which include:
- Identify the main events.
- Find the most important details about each event.
- Restate each event and important details in a short summary.
Make sure to remind students to use their own words when summarizing. Point out that summarizing helps them understand and remember books they have read.
Use Resource #2: Summarizing to model for students how to restate a short summary using your own words. Pass out copies of the resource to students to use for subsequent chapters of the book. Then model for students how to summarize the first story in the book, filling out the organizer with the class.
Model: First, I’ll identify the topic of “Swift Lift” on pages 7 and 8. The narrative is about a seagull that shoplifted. What are the important details? The seagull walked into a shop in Scotland and snatched a bag of snacks with his beak and then flew away. The seagull did the same thing time after time. He became a celebrity in the town and on YouTube.
Give students a brief oral summary of the important points of the story in your own words. Ask them to choose their favorite part of the story and use the organizer to summarize it.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
What is the difference between a wild animal and a tame animal? Are pet animals ever completely tame? (Sample answers: A wild animal lives in the wild; a tame animal lives with people. I don’t think a pet is ever completely tame; a dog or cat might bite or scratch if threatened.)
Reread the story “Red-Carded” about the parrot at a soccer game. Summarize the story in a few sentences. (Sample answers: A woman took her pet parrot to a soccer game. The parrot began to imitate the sound of the referee’s whistle, and the players stopped playing. Finally, the parrot was thrown out of the stadium.)
3. Definitions through Examples
Name examples of human intruders, human vandals, and human thugs. (Sample answers: An intruder would break into a house. A vandal might spray-paint a school. A thug might be a criminal who beats someone up to get money.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
What is your favorite story in the book? Why do you like it best? What does the animal do to amaze you or make you laugh?
What funny, surprising, or strange behavior have you seen an animal do?
Compare this book to another book you’ve read about animals or pets. Does the other book show animals as troublemakers or heroes or something else? Which book do you like more?
Content Area Connections
Make a Pet Graph
Ask students to create a bar graph that shows the percentage of the most popular pets. Visit a website that lists the most popular pets in the United States by number, such as graphs.net. Demonstrate for students how to create the graph and how to use the percentages for the graph.
Worldwide Bad Pets
The bad pets in the book are from all over the United States and all over the world. Challenge students to locate the homes of all the animals in one of the book chapters. For example, in the first chapter, the animals are from Scotland, Utah, Germany, Idaho, England, Maine, Virginia, and Georgia. Ask students to locate the pet homes using Google Maps or Google Earth.
Assign students to research animal intelligence. They might choose a specific animal, such as a dolphin or chimpanzee, or they might want to research the instinctual intelligence of such animals as bees or ants. Ask them to report back to the class about their smart animal using visuals such as photos, drawings, or a PowerPoint presentation.
A Rogue’s Gallery
Challenge students to research funny animal photographs on the Internet from a student-friendly site, such as National Geographic for Kids. Ask each student to contribute one photo to a rogue’s gallery of funny animal photos. After you create a slideshow of the photos, ask students to vote on the animal photo they think is the funniest or cleverest.
Ask students to write an argument essay about the animal from the book that they think is the smartest. Remind them that an argument essay states a claim, supports it with evidence, and restates the position in the conclusion. Encourage students to reread the story about the animal they think is the smartest to look for supporting text evidence. Have students present their essays to the group and then critique and compare.
Don't Forget About the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Tell them there is no one right answer. How smart are animals?
A Wanted Poster
Ask each student to create a wanted poster for an animal in the book. Print out the Big Activity: A Wanted Poster and pass out copies to students. Explain that they will pick one of their favorite stories and then make a wanted poster for that animal. They will draw the animal, give it a name, describe its features, and name the crime it committed. Before getting started, clarify any questions they have about the activity.
About the Author
Allan Zullo has written more than 100 nonfiction books on a broad range of subjects, including two best-selling series for middle-grade students. Haunted Kids features eerie stories that are inspired by real-life reports of the supernatural. Ten True Tales tells about extraordinary people—often teens—who have survived life-threatening situations. For more information about the author, visit www.allanzullo.com.
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