Dog days at school
Canines are muses to students for writing activity
HAZLE TWP. — One at a time the kindergartners stepped to the microphone in the Early Learning Center’s gymnasium and guessed who their special visitors might be on Wednesday afternoon.
“The high school kids,” Jocelyn, reading from her notebook, said, would “show us how to learn.”
Other students read guesses that they had written.
“I think the special visitor is my brother.”
“I think the pilgrims because they never came here.”
“I think the visitor will be Minnie Mouse.”
“Let’s see,” Phil Latella, the principal, said, “who the visitors may or may not be.” Music played.
Lat ella’ s wife, Lydia, entered while walking their dogs, Coda and Buttons, on leashes.
The students were abuzz. Some reached to touch the dogs that Lydia Latella led around the gym.
Buttons, a gray-and-white Shih Tzu, is 6 and stands about knee-high to Coda, a 2-year-old German shepherd who had a bandage on his left hind foot.
“What do you think happened to Coda’s foot?” Phil Latella asked the students without telling them the dog recently had a cyst removed.
He asked them to write their answers. Also, he asked them to write whether they thought that Buttons and Coda were friends.
“You have to tell me why,” he said.
Latella asked his wife to bring the dogs to school this week to boost the kid writing program. The dogs are scheduled to visit first-graders today and plan to spend Friday with second-graders.
“The idea is to do anything to get the child to want to write,” he said.
In kid writing, the chil---
dren write words as they sound.
One girl told Latella that she wrote the letters “B” and “N” for Buttons.
When he asked what other letter the girl heard in Buttons’ name, she said “T.”
He told her to put the “T” between the “B” and “N” and sent her back to her seat with a high-five.
On Wednesday, the letter of the day in kindergarten was “D” as in disco balls, which some of the students colored and taped to paper
headbands that they wore.
A teacher brought a notebook to show Latella that a boy who doesn’t speak English had written “Ilike Coda.”
Latella wants to help pupils overcome their reluctance to write. Once they put letters on paper, teachers can fix their spelling, punctuation and capitalization later.
Writing helps students learn to read, too, Phil Latella said.
His wife, a secretary at Hazleton Area High School, brings the dogs to the Early Learning Center once or twice a month.
Trained as service dogs, Coda and Buttons usually meet with a few pupils or a single class rather than a full gymnasium.
If students have been teased or show shyness about their reading abilities, she said, “they’re more likely to read to the dogs.”
Lydia Latella shows her dogs, Buttons, a 6-year-old Shih Tzu, top, and Coda, a 2-year-old German shepherd, below, to students in the kindergar ten class at Hazle Twp. Early Learning Center during a visit to the school Wednesday. Following the visit, the students wrote about what they liked best about the dogs and read their papers to the class.
Kindergar ten students at the Hazle Twp. Early Learning Center are all smiles as a pair of dogs made a special visit to the school Wednesday. Following the visit, the students wrote about what they liked best about the dogs and read their papers to the class.