Once Upon a Sidewalk

You need a good dog song when you teach third grade in the city.  It helps. When you run into strange dogs and their owners on the way in from recess, it helps to have a song that acts as  a balm to the terrified, yet is calming to the overly enthusiastic.   Singing seems to keep third graders from running and shrieking and crowding strange animals. It  gives a dog space.  I teach the song every year on our first post-recess dog encounter.

I start:

There’s a dog on the sidewalk…

And I teach the children to respond:

“Woof, Woof!”

We sing this three times before the big finish:

And he’s hungry…

He’s looking for something to eat.

On Thursday afternoon –our third day of third grade– we saw a dog and his owner walk by Fox School as we were on our way in.  My children didn’t know the song yet, so I decided to sing it once through for them.  I started:

There’s a dog on the sidewalk…

And this is the strange part…  the dog stopped and looked at me like, “Oh, I know this one!”  And responded on key and in rhythm…

“Woof, woof!”

This happened through the whole song:  I sang my part and he sang his. Yes. I am saying that the dog and I sang a duet on the Fox School sidewalk. When it was time for the big finish, he howled.  He simply wasn’t ready to stop singing.   I looked at my children.  They were silent, but clearly amazed.  A hand went up.


“Could you make that happen again?”

I shook my head.   I didn’t make it happen the first time. That is the thing about our stories… we don’t make them happen. We give them space to happen. We learn to see the story. And then we learn to tell it.  And then we learn to write it.  On the blank page we give the story room to sing.  We read and read and read and read to see how other authors see the stories around them and see what it is they do when they write them down.  But I didn’t say all that.  I don’t need to.   We’ll be living it together in Writing Workshop in Room 204.  And we’ve had a really good start.

Somewhere in Richmond there is a dog on a sidewalk with a story to tell.  And now we’ve got one, too.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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14 Responses to Once Upon a Sidewalk

  1. Christin Thompson says:

    I have two dogs…and I believe they have a story to tell everyday.
    I try to teach this way….there is always a story to tell! I teach first grade at Blackwell Elementry in the city….I’m on the writer’s workshop bandwagon as well….it was a success last year and I am continuing this year. Glad I was given a tip to find your blog!

  2. Lisa says:

    Woof! Woof! xo

  3. Sparks says:

    I guess that dog’s master has a story to tell, too. Did he have anything to say on the spot? What kind of dog was it? John Shafer has a corgi who sings happy birthday duets with him. It’s a riot to get one of those greetings. Almost as great as getting one from an assemblage of miscellaneous voices and one enthusiastic percussionist sounding CHA CHA CHA!!

  4. blkdrama says:

    What a wonderful story, filled with surprises and I can hear the song!

  5. Katy says:

    What a wonderful story from the first week of school! Thanks for sharing, Katy Sawyer

  6. Stacey says:

    I LOVE that you have a song to calm the kids who are scared! You are the best. (Want to move to PA by the time my child goes to third grade? Granted, she’s still in utero, but I figured I’d start trying to persuade you now.)

  7. My dog talks so I can believe you encountered a singing dog! What fun for you kids to experience something like this. Let’s hope one of them writes about it.

  8. Nicki says:

    Oh Annie…. you even make dogs’ hearts sing! Love to you wonderful teacher, writer, and human being! (Viv was thrilled that you used “the third day of 3rd grade”)

  9. Tara says:

    The paragraph beginning with “I shook my head”…that’s what writing is all about! I am going to quote you, if you don’t mind, in my Writing Workshop – we DO want our stories to sing. And I have a dog who loves to sing…except she is better at it than I am!

  10. Lindsay says:

    “On the blank page, we give the story room to sing.” oh, i LOVE it.. LOVE IT LOVE IT! this post literally made me giddy. I just adore the song, the story, the reminders… I can’t wait to read more of your “songs.”

  11. onesunflower says:

    My last blog entry was written from my dog’s point of view! – and I often write/draw stories for my preschoolers that are my dog’s story. The children love retelling them the most so my purpose of strengthening their oral language, developing “character” and emphasizing other narrative elements have more impact!

  12. Debele says:

    And then we went inside for tea with Miss Crocker.

  13. Richard Walker says:

    Wow what an amazing story. Kieran told me about this experience earlier today. I wonder how that dog knew his part of the song? It seems that Kieran is going to have a fabulous third grade experience in your classroom and I look forward to visiting yor blog with her to keep track of updates. Best wishes from Kieran’s dad!

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