Teaching Students about Veterans Day with Rags: Hero Dog of WWI

My students and I observed Veterans Day by reading Rags Hero Dog of WWI by Margot Theis Raven. This is such a heartwarming story of the beautiful friendship between Private Donovan and his adopted dog, Rags. What better way to lead into a conversation about Veterans Day than with this powerful true story of a soldier and his dog fighting in World War I.

Rags: Hero Dog of WWI by Margot Theis Raven

While Rags: Hero Dog of WWI certainly is a kid-friendly picture book, I recommend this book more for middle to upper elementary. Donovan loses his life at the end of this story, which may be particularly sad and difficult to understand for the younger children.

Activating Prior Knowledge

I started by asking the kids if any of them know someone who is a veteran. Quite a few of my students had grandparents, aunts, and uncles who have served in the military. After allowing students to share their thoughts and discuss, we began our interactive read aloud of Rags: Hero Dog of WWI.

Language and Visualization

We paused many times throughout the story to discuss and visualize details. Margot Theis Raven uses imagery and similes, which provided a wonderful teaching point for figurative language. Raven’s language in this story is powerful and very effective in evoking empathy from readers.

Character Traits

My students and I also discussed the friendship shared by Donovan and Rags and the courage and bravery they demonstrated throughout the story. After mapping the character traits of Donovan and Rags, we discussed the traits displayed by the past and present members of our military.

Students then created trifold story brochures in which they provided text evidence to support their identification of character traits in Donovan and Rags. Students also wrote summaries of the story and gave a book review.

Almost all of my students rated this book with 5 stars, so they must have really liked it! The exception was three students who gave it 4 stars because of the sad ending.

Letter to Veterans

Last but certainly not least, my students wrote wonderful letters to thank our veterans. I must say they did an amazing job of writing their letters, and some of them were incredibly touching and personal.

This full book companion and interactive read aloud lesson is also available for purchase in my store.

I hope you enjoy!

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