As the 21/22 school year is coming to the end, I have to reflect on what has happened this year in the second grade. What started as regular visits, involving petting Carmel and Carmel interacting with children, it turned into more thought-out and strategic integration of our therapy visits into the second grade curriculum, with themes such seems as kindness and visualization, and then progressing to children’s developing their own and quite elaborate autobiographies.
What is fascinating is the fact that every time I come in with Carmel, children cannot wait to continue working on these autobiographies and cannot wait to share with me what they have written. I can see incredible enthusiasm in their eyes every time they share.
Another amazing thing is the fact that every child in the second grade is an enthusiastic writer now and considers himself or herself an engaged writer. This was not the case before we started the activity. Some children in the classroom absolutely despised writing.
Another phenomenon the teacher and I have observed is the improvement of social interaction. In this highly engaging activity, children have been helping each other in writing. I watched a boy helping another boy thinking of a joke that the other boy wanted to include in his autobiography. I also saw another child helping another child in spelling. We have also seen two girls working very well together. Even though we didn’t know what exactly they were talking about, you could just see their gestures and face expressions as they were helping each other.
Something else occurred this week. As children were working on their authors’ bios, some of them started including goals for their lives in those little biographies. One child said that he is going to become a famous book author. Another child declared that he was going to have his own therapy dog and take the dog to places that need such interactions.
In addition, these activities have spread to another second grade classroom. Children in the classroom are already writing their own books and I am doing very similar activities I have done with the other second grade classroom.
When I reflect on these learning gains and beyond, I’m starting to ask questions about what else is possible when we connect therapy teams and teachers in more meaningful, fuller, thoughtful ways. I think that this type of activity can be used to enhance children’s learning in also other subjects. I will have to add some more thinking to these ideas, but I’m already open to explore the possibilities and challenges. How can we help children in learning math, science, social studies, when we team up teachers and therapy dog teams? I do not know all the answers yet but I’m looking forward to exploring these areas.
In the meantime, as we cannot go to every classroom in this country, we have created the Carmel’s Therapy Dog App. This application allows children to interact with my dog character, write stories, illustrate, and much more. The application also is meant to be used by teachers who would like to connect students to the therapy dog idea and look for ways of engaging young writers in writing. So please do not wait and get the app.