Original Post: 5/28/2013
My school district has a weekly bulletin that they email out to keep the staff abreast of what is happening in our district- good, bad, and ugly. Okay, maybe just the good, great, and fantastic! Either way, I came across a newly published author in my district! I became ecstatic as I know my students are in love with books, especially when they can meet the author! They had the chance to previously Skype with Kate Messner and enjoyed the experience so much that I try everything I can to make their paths cross with another author.
Nonetheless, my literacy facilitator reached out to Amy Cranmer, an Occupational Therapist through our Programs for Exceptional Children in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. Although Amy was unable to come meet the kiddos during school hours, she was kind enough to allow students to reach out to her with questions based on her new book “Gunny and the Magical Pack.” She even sent the kiddos bookmarks!
I quickly logged on to Amazon and ordered the book. The students’ faces lit up as they realized another cyber “Meet and Greet” with a real-life author was upon them. When the bookmarks arrived the students went bizerk! That meant “the” moment was getting even closer. I held on to the bookmarks for safe keeping which just about killed each child inside. But, when the book finally arrived and I passed out the bookmarks the students couldn’t contain themselves. As I began the read-aloud students stared at their bookmarks taking in the description of the main character and comparing it to the image in front of them. Who knew a chapter book could mesmerize 8 years olds in such a way?!
My plan was to read Chapter One and take summary notes in a graphic organizer.
Well, the chapters are short and extremely enticing. I pushed on to Chapter 2, and by Chapter 3 the students wouldn’t let me stop! So as with most teachable moments, we kept on truckin’! We finished all 6 chapters in an hour and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room (Chapter 1 will do you in, but Chapter 2 will tug harder at your heart strings). It has a beautiful ending; one worth all the tears at the beginning (the pictures bring it all to life too!).
Not only did I want to fill my students’ joy tank with another great author, but it tied in so beautifully to our Social Issues unit in Writing. You see, Gunny is a rescued animal. He lived with Amy at her home with her many many many animals (okay it wasn’t that many but it was more than the norm!). Amy’s animals were all part of the process of helping rescued animals heal emotionally and mentally. Amy took care of the physical healing (well, actually the cats really adored Gunny and gave his face a bath often!).
Gunny was a bait dog used in a practice ring for the illegal activity of dog fighting. Gunny was too sweet in demeanor to fight well, so other dogs practiced on him until one day he was left in the road amongst trash to die. (Welcome to Chapter 1…yup <tear jerker>) I had to give my students a lot of background information on dog fighting as this is the first they had really heard about it. I hated to do it, but I had to google image “dog fighting” for it to hit home. Yup, all it took was one image. They got it. They were so fired up and angry with people for this type of animal abuse, especially because they loved Gunny. Gunny was their hero for what he endured and overcame; what strength he embodied.
After we finished the book and our passionate discussion, students wrote about dog fighting: what it is, why it’s a social issue, and how we as citizens can help. Of course they used their oreo format that we have been utilizing during this unit. Instead of sharing their opinion or reasoning, each section of delicious cream filling was a “How You Can Help” paragraph.
Here is an example:
So, we then emailed Amy our favorite part of the story and one question. We are super excited to see her response! I’m going to print off her response, cut out each student’s question with her answer, and place it on their desk when they arrive in the morning. They will be super surprised and excited to see that Amy cares so much about them that she answered each and every one of them! What an awesome person! 🙂
[As I am writing this post, Amy’s email arrived to my inbox. Same day response!!! Free of charge 🙂 How about that! I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve… I can’t wait to share this with them! She even included additional pictures to help answer some of their questions. She’s MY hero!]
After students recover from the excitement of Amy’s response [their mouths dropped open in amazement and giddiness took over as they read through each word of her response!], I am going to share with them how they can help by volunteering in animal shelters. We will also dive back into social issues and discuss Michael Vick (in 8 yr old terminology and vagueness). They will be asked if they agree or disagree with fans support/outrage with the Eagles for signing him to play. This is going to interest my boys the most, but I know my girls can see how this would apply to their sporting world as well. Stay tuned to see how they respond!
A Big Shout Out to Amy Cranmer for her writing talent, big heart, healing capabilities, and most of all her time to make my students feel just as loved as Gunny. They will cherish this moment! Thank you!
Some of the sweet comments to Amy include, “ you are a very caring person for everything you have done;” “I know you are busy like a bee and I just want to say thank you for writing back;” “I admire you;” “you have no idea how much that means to us;” “thank you for saving Gunny;” and “you are such a good person and not just for saving Gunny but for giving him a new life.”
Gunny loved our thank you notes! Photo Courtesy of Amy Cranmer on Gunny’s Facebook Wall
Another shout out to our Class Hero (semi class pet, right?!), Gunny! We honor you daily!
The kiddos wanted to wish Gunny a safe and adventurous summer!
This book is recommended for all readers. I have already passed it on to my teammates. It’s informative for anyone wanting to make a positive impact on their society, especially on such a pressing issue. Please check back in and let me know how you plan to help in your area!
Here’s the Scoop! Charlotte Observer
Check it out: North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue
Buy it now!
Connect with Gunny on Facebook! (Look, we were mentioned once and twice! : “A 3rd grade teacher that I don’t know, at a school I don’t serve, ordered Gunny’s book and asked if I’d be open to doing a Q & A with her students via email. I just finished answering some adorable questions. Even better, the questions opened up the door to touch on a few issues that didn’t get addressed in the book. Really fun. This teacher told me that at the beginning of the year, the students were able to Skype with an author, and still talk about it. Kids get REALLY excited by the term ‘author’. lol!” and ” So the 3rd grade class and teacher I mentioned yesterday? Got an awesome email response last night, which included a link to the teacher’s blog about creative teaching/reaching your students. She posted an entry about how she used the Gunny book with her kids, even before the book arrived. She told how the kids reacted. And she mentioned how she plans to build on all this going forward. Guys, I cried. This is EXACTLY why I wrote this book. Please read her blog post, and be thankful for all the dedicated teachers out there! I’d love for you guys to share this post so that other people can see the awesome things these teachers are doing with/for their students as they share the story of our very Magical Pack. Thanks!”)