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Student Writing Gets Shelter Animals a 2nd Chance

There’s nothing like applying academic skills to a real-life context and doing good at the same time…especially for elementary school students!

Teacher Kensey Jones wanted her Grade 2 class to make an impact with their upcoming persuasive essay assignment. So, she approached Christie Peters, the director of the animal shelter where she volunteers in Richmond, Virginia, with a proposition. Peters agreed, and the persuasive paragraph assignment for Jones’ class became this: Write a paragraph from the perspective of an animal at the shelter that’s not easily adoptable, trying to convince someone to take it home.

Snow, a dog from the shelter, visited the classroom at St. Michael’s Episcopal School so that the students could see an animal from the shelter and learn how the shelter operates. Each child was then assigned an animal and told a little bit about it and its personality.

This is a lovely story because the assignment is about persuasive writing, but teaches so much more. The students:

  • Get an opportunity to use their creative writing and artistic skills, and to see how writing and art can have an impact.
  • Learn about empathy – putting themselves in others’ shoes, for both the animals and potential adoptive animal parents. What would they want included in the essay if they were the animal? What information would they want to know if they were the human considering adopting the animal?
  • Learn that they have the power to bring about positive change in their community, perhaps in ways that they’d never considered. What an empowering message for a young child!

These students did bring about positive change – out of the 24 animals selected to have stories written about them, 23 were adopted!

“As an educator, my my biggest hope and dream is that I want the students to know no matter how young you are, you can put your mind to something and you can make a true difference,” she told


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