Lesson Plan: Helping Mrs Arbuckle

Last updated: January 24, 2013

Leave a Comment

A butterfly with black and blue wings rests on a branch

Technology Level: Classroom Based.

Audience: Ages 8 and Under/ Grades 2-3

Duration: 45 minutes


Students will take on the role of ‘Pet Helpers’ and accompany Mrs. Arbuckle as she journeys around the world to find the perfect pet. By listening to and interacting with Mrs. Arbuckle, students will understand the difference between wild and domestic animals and why some animals make more suitable pets for people than others.

Prior knowledge

This drama lesson is based on the book A Pet for Mrs. Arbuckle.

During the lesson, the classroom teacher will take part in the drama and therefore help to control what happens on the journey. Teacher-in-role essentials:

  • Explain that you are all going to take part in a drama and that you will be pretending to be someone else. Tell students how they will know when you are in role – this only needs to be really simple e.g. through the use of a badge, a hat or a scarf. Confirm with the students that they are all prepared to go along with you while you are pretending.
  • It is recommended that you take on a low-status role in which you require the help of the students and that you are serious and believable. Should you need to speak to the students out of role for any reason, simply remove your hat or scarf and freeze the drama for a moment.
  • Many teachers worry about maintaining behaviour management when they are in role. It is probably easier to do it with another teacher in the room, particularly if your students are new to drama, but practitioners also recommend responding to behaviour in role e.g. ‘I was told that you were very polite and helpful. Perhaps I have chosen the wrong Pet Helpers’ Or, take on a very timid character that will not share information unless the students make him/her feel comfortable.


  • Simple prop for teacher-in-role as Mrs. Arbuckle e.g. hat or scarf.
  • A clear space at the back of the classroom


  1. Lesson Plan
  2. Wanted Advertisement


Lesson Procedure
Topic Notes
1.Introduction (5 mins)  
1.1 (5 mins)

1.1 Today we are going to use our imaginations, pretend and bring a story to life right here in the classroom. Our story will be about pets.

Who has a pet? What type of pet do you have?

What sorts of things do you do for your pet?

What does your pet do for you?

Are there some animals that don’t make good pets? Why not?

The person in our story doesn’t have a pet, but she would like one very much. I am going to pretend to be that person. When I put on this hat (or whatever prop has been chosen) and sit on this chair, I will be someone called Mrs Arbuckle. Are you all prepared to go along with me while I am pretending and then pretend with me? Are you ready to meet Mrs. Arbuckle?

2. Body (30 mins)  
2.1 Meeting Mrs. Arbuckle(5 mins)

2.1 The students listen and respond to the teacher in role as Mrs Arbuckle who explains her dilemma. Sample script:

Hello dearies. So nice of you to let me come and visit. I have come here today because I have a problem and I was hoping you could help me. You see… I would like a pet. I would love a pet that I could cuddle, and play with, and talk to and care for. But I have never had a pet before and I don’t know anything about them. I have heard that many of you have pets and thought you might be able to help me. Let me explain my problem: I told the gingernut cat from down the street that I would like to find a pet and he said that I should put an ad in the paper. Here it is (show students the advertisement and explain her needs, wants and constraints). I put this ad in the paper and you won’t believe what happened. I received four letters from four animals who all live in different countries around the world.

Oh dear! One lives in America, one is from England, the third letter was from Japan and the last animal lives in Tasmania.

I asked the gingernut cat from down the street what I should do and he said that I should visit the animals, talk to them and decide which one would be the best pet for me. I have packed my overnight bag and put on my boots and my hat, but I don’t know anything about pets and I have come to ask you a favour. Will you be my ‘Pet Helpers’ and come with me on a trip around the world to meet the animals that sent the letters?

Establish that the students are willing to help. Enrole them as Pet Helpers by asking them to put on their imaginary Pet Helper badges and their Pet Helper suits and by packing a bag with everything they will need for the journey. Out of role, discuss the sorts of things they will do to help Mrs. Arbuckle now that they are her Pet Helpers. Also, what does a Pet Helper look like? Sound like?

2.2 A Journey Around the World(20 mins)

2.2 The whole group participates in a role-play of Mrs. Arbuckle’s journey to interview the four potential pets. Sample script:

(Back in role as Mrs. Arbuckle) To make this journey around the world and still be back in time for lunch, we are going to have to take the Pet Helpers’ supersonic jet plane. (Sit students on the floor in two lines as if they are sitting in an airplane and enrol the two front students as the captain and navigator. It is easiest to manage the journey by standing at the head of the line.) Captain, please make sure that everyone is seated and has their seatbelt on. Navigator, please set the coordinates for America. (Lead the Captain to start the engine and take off. Move your body accordingly e.g. leaning back for take-off and the students will all join in. Explain that when the Navigator is ready, he/she is to press the big red button in front of them – that is the supersonic button and will shoot the plane straight to the first destination. React physically to the button being pushed.)

Can anyone see America? Great. Captain, land us over there.

The Whale

OK everyone. You need to put on your swimming costume, your bathing cap, your flippers and your snorkel. We are going to swim out to that raft to meet the first animal that wrote me a letter. Let’s swim out in our lines so that we all stay together and safe. Keep a look out for the animal. (Mime swimming out and sitting on the raft.) Wow! Did you see that big spout of water suddenly shoot out of the ocean? Yes, the first animal to write to me about being my pet was a whale! Here she comes now. Let’s all stay very still and quiet. I think a whale would make a wonderful pet – I would be famous overnight as the only person on the street with a pet whale and it would be very comforting to have a whale around. What do my Pet Helpers think? (Lead students to reflect on Mrs. Arbuckle’s needs and the constraints of her home environment, as well as the fact that the whale is a wild animal. Once the Pet Helpers have convinced her that a whale is not the pet for her, swim back to the plane.)

This process is repeated similarly for each of the destinations and animals:

The Frog

England. Put on Wellington boots and a raincoat, open up an umbrella and splash through the puddles to meet the frog. Some pro’s – the frog has a most unusual voice and Mrs. Arbuckle could lie in bed at night and listen to him croak. That would make a change from listening to the radio. Some con’s – pets and people should sleep at night and make their noises in the daytime. A frog is a wild animal.

The Butterfly

Japan. Put on climbing boots, take out a rope and climb up a tree to meet the butterfly. Some pro’s – He would be the loveliest pet for miles around and she wouldn’t get tired of him because he will only live for a couple of days. And she does love purple. Some con’s – a pet should go on and on, day after day, have regular meals and sleep in the same old corner night after night. A pet should be something you can stroke. And… a butterfly belongs in the wild.

The Echidna

Australia. Put on walking boots, a backpack, a hat and sunscreen, and hike through the Tasmanian forest to meet the echidna. Some pro’s – He sleeps a lot in Winter, but in Summer he is a ball of energy and can do lots of digging in the garden. That’s a good trick. Some con’s – Who wants holes all over the garden? Does Mr. Arbuckle? Does she? An Echidna is a wild animal.

Freeze the drama, de-role by taking off the prop you have been using to play Mrs. Arbuckle and ask the students to come out of role as Pet Helpers and be themselves again.

2.3 Deciding on the Perfect Pet (10 mins)

2.3 It really doesn’t seem as if Mrs. Arbuckle is having much luck choosing the perfect pet. Recap with the students Mrs. Arbuckle’s needs and wants, the constraints of her home environment and why the above animals would not make suitable pets.

Divide students into small groups to discuss their ideas for the pet that would be perfect for Mrs. Arbuckle. Each group is to choose one pet and then present their idea to the rest of the class, explaining the reasoning behind their decision.

3 Conclusion(5 mins)


3.1 Reflecting on the Drama(5 mins)

3.1 Suggested key questions for reflection:

How did you feel about me taking on the role of Mrs. Arbuckle?

How did you feel when you went into role as Pet Helpers?

What did you enjoy about our journey? What didn’t you enjoy?

What important things happened on our journey?

What did the class do well?

What good ideas did you have?

Curriculum Links

Queensland Curriculum Links

Curriculum Links for this lesson
Key Learning area Curriculum link

2.1 Students make choices about and develop roles to build dramatic action.
2.2 Students share moments of dramatic action using voice and movement so that they can be seen, heard and understood.
2.3 Students describe drama experiences and presentations, expressing opinions and exchanging viewpoints with others.


Life and Living
2.1 Students look for patterns and relationships between the features of different living things and how those living things meet their needs.

2.3 Students make links between different features of the environment and the specific needs of living things.

HPE Enhancing Personal Development
2.4 Students demonstrate verbal and non-verbal skills to express ideas, needs and feelings and to show consideration of others.

Suggested Homework Activities

  1. What animals are birds thought to be evolved from? Research this topic tonight for homework. Some good websites include:
    • Write a letter to Mrs. Arbuckle advising her on how to care for her new pet.
    • Write a new ending for the story A Pet for Mrs. Arbuckle.
    • Draw a picture of Mrs. Arbuckle with her new pet.
    • Send a letter of thanks to the class from Mrs. Arbuckle.

Suggested Extension Activities

  1. Research how humans can help birds using the Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency website:
    • Hot-seat (interview) a student or teacher in role as Mr. Arbuckle to find out what he thinks about the new pet. Other real or invented characters could also be interviewed.
    • Devise a second story for Mrs. Arbuckle about her adventures with her new pet.
    • Publish class books of the stories.
    • Create a play or a puppet show to share with another class.
    • Make a poster on ‘How to Choose the Perfect Pet’.
    • Research pets most suitable for the students’ current home and family situations, and have each student present a proposal about their preferred pet and how to care for it.

Suggestions for Adapting this Lesson for Lower or Higher Year Levels

This lesson could easily be adapted for lower year levels by cutting down on the amount of content contained within the lesson and by visiting fewer animals. The small group activity at the end of the lesson could be run as a whole group discussion.

Higher year levels, rather than role-playing the journey with the teacher-in-role, could use another drama strategy to explore the story such as freezeframes:

Freezeframes - Students create a frozen picture with their bodies as if the pause button had been pressed at a particular moment during the story. In order to convey meaning, participants may choose to represent people or objects. Freezeframes are also called tableaux, still images or frozen pictures.

Small groups could each create two contrasting images – one that shows Mrs. Arbuckle imagining how wonderful it would be to have a particular animal as a pet, and another that illustrates a more realistic view and why the animal would not be a suitable pet. There are more than four animals visited in the original storybook, so students could be divided into groups of four or five. A performance could be created to show to a younger class.


Smyth, G. and James, A. (1989) A Pet for Mrs. Arbuckle, Ringwood, Victoria: Puffin.


Want to use this learning resource?

You must be logged in to download learning resources.

Please log in using the form in the left sidebar below the main menu.

Not yet a member?

No problem. Join our community of humane educators & get immediate access to all WOAW’s learning resources absolutely free!

Create New Account

Have your say! Leave us a comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.