Lesson plan

Presidential Pets

Holy cow! Did President George W. Bush really have a longhorn named Ofelia as a pet? Students learn about wacky White House pets in this fun research activity that includes “president interviews” and a pet choice writing page.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will choose and describe presidential pets using an interview and write strategy.

(5 minutes)
  • Write and underline "Presidential Pets" on the board.
  • Ask students to think about what kind of pets a president might have. List the responses under the title.
  • If no one mentions elephants, ask the class if this would be an animal to list.
  • Explain that elephants were given to President Buchanan, our 15th president!
  • Add that we will learn more about wacky pets as we conduct White House pet research online.
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to pretend that, as a newly elected president, they are asked to choose a pet for the White House.
  • Explain that to learn more about presidential pets and to provide choices for the new presidents, a reporter, you, will read a website article.
  • Project and read the national geographic kids website article Presidential Pets.
  • After reading, ask students to show a thumbs up if the article is nonfiction, or a thumbs down if it is fiction. Explain that this is a nonfiction news article, because it is based on fact, and not fiction, or made up. Add that many of the pets are so odd that it seems that they are fictional.
(10 minutes)
  • Partner up students to take turns in a role play president and interviewer scenario. The interviewer will ask what pet the new president will bring to the White House and the president will select one and give his or her reason for the choice.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the Presidential Pets worksheet and give the directions.
  • Add that if the student does not find his or her choice of presidential pet on the worksheet, an alternate drawing and reason for the choice may be made on the backside of the paper.
  • Enrichment: Challenge students to research additional White House pets and state the reason behind the choice. For example, did the president’s child beg for a certain kind of pet?
  • Support: Partner students who need more help with peer mentors. Allow dictation of response to worksheet if writing is a challenge.
(15 minutes)
  • Have partners read each other’s written responses from the Presidential Pet worksheet.
  • Add the worksheet pet choice responses to the Presidential Pets list on the board.
  • Collect worksheet for assigning a percentage grade to determine if student's response indicated a choice and adequate reasoning for the choice.
(5 minutes)
  • Choral read the Presidential Pet list.
  • Ask students to look for what is left on the list that was not a student choice or revealed in the website article.
  • Vote on whether the remaining items should remain as presidential pet possibilities.

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