Stuffed Animals in the Classroom

I love using these sweet little stuffed animals when I'm teaching my first graders the decoding strategies they'll use throughout the year.  You know them... "Lips the Fish," "Stretchy Snake," "Chunky Monkey," etc.  Primary teachers have been using these strategies for years and some teachers even have the Beanie Babies that match each strategy.  I love the idea of having a coordinating stuffed animal for each strategy, but I don't have any of the Beanie Babies.  I do, however, have kiddos of my own who have (thankfully) been collecting Webkinz since they were little... and they have quite a massive collection between the two of them.  

TIP:  Go through your own children's collection or start scouring yard sales and thrift shops.  You're bound to find something cute to tie into each of the decoding strategies.  Your classroom collection doesn't have to match either.  

How do I use them?  
1.  For my students, the stuffed animals are a tactile, hands-on way to bring each strategy to life.  We "meet" a few of them each week as I introduce and apply the strategies during shared and guided reading sessions.  

2.  During guided reading groups (at the beginning of the year), if I notice a child using a particular strategy, I recognize the effort and put the matching stuffed animal on the table next to the child.  They love having this little treat and I often ask them to share what they did successfully with the whole class when reading workshop is over.

3.  We hold them and dance with them when we sing any of Jack Hartmann's coordinating strategy songs.  We even "talk" to them sometimes, as if they're actual friends of ours in the room... friends helping us learn how to read.  (We're not crazy... just fun.)  :)

4.  They are always displayed and accessible throughout the year.

You can pick up these free decoding strategy posters in my TpT store.  Just click on the link below the image.  I use these in multiple ways, but after I teach all the strategies, I hang them from ribbons above my guided reading table (two-sided). This way, the children can see them at all times.  They're a visual reminder to be strategic when trying to figure out tricky words.


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome... thanks for following. Have a great week! :)

  2. These have been such a neat tool for my first graders the past few years. Last year I also collected the stuffed animals so I could do the comprehension strategies. Thanks for sharing your posters. :)

    1. Thanks, Laura! Don't the animals make it more fun? :)

    2. Laura... will you share which animals you use for which comprehension strategies? :)

  3. Hi Andrea,

    I just found this post on Pinterest. I'm so excited to tell you about my songs that go with these animals/your exact posters. The songs bring a whole new element to teaching comprehension strategies. Children read as they sing, and they remember more when you add more modalities. Please listen to samples at:

    I'm always looking for ways to collaborate with people. Please e-mail me at if you're interested!



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