Fourth Grade Writing Lesson Helps Homeless Pets

Photo credit: Baltimore Humane Society
Mrs. Murphy's fourth grade students visit the Baltimore Humane Society.

Homeless pets at the Baltimore Humane Society (BHS) have a new group of advocates, thanks to an unusual writing assignment given to local fourth-grade students. Tiffani Murphy, a writing teacher at Ebb Valley Elementary School in Manchester, Maryland, saw an opportunity to turn a potentially tedious lesson on persuasive writing into something memorable and fun for the children in her class.

Murphy, an animal lover, instructed her students to select a dog or cat from the BHS website. She then asked the kids to write a persuasive letter in the pet’s voice explaining why he or she should be adopted.

Speaking for the Animals

“The kids were so excited about the assignment and put a lot of effort into it,” Murphy says. “I was blown away by the creative writing.”

Murphy laminated the 39 letters and sent them to the BHS, a private, nonprofit, no-kill shelter in Reisterstown, Maryland, hoping the shelter might find some use for them.

And they did: BHS marketing and PR director Wendy Goldband was incredulous when she opened the package of letters and the accompanying note from Murphy explaining the assignment. Right away, Goldband posted the sweet letters next to the cages of the pets the kids had selected.

The reaction from shelter visitors has been terrific, Goldband says. “People think they are so cute!” One couple even framed the letter that accompanied their adopted pet.

A Larger Lesson

The lesson, which began with simply learning how to write in a persuasive voice, has had a much bigger impact on her students, Murphy says. The kids have realized that their words and actions can make a difference in the community.

On their own, the kids collected food, supplies and money for the shelter. And when Goldband invited the students to the shelter for a tour and to meet some of the animals, the kids proudly arrived with boxes full of donated items.


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