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Dear Mrs. LaRue

You Can Quote Me
based on Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School
Written and illustrated by Mark Teague
Grades: K–3

Print and Copy these Classroom Activities Now (PDF)
You Can Quote Me (PDF)
Dog Adventures (PDF)

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About the Book
Poor Ike! Sent to dog obedience school by his owner, Mrs. LaRue, for a difference of opinion about his behavior at home, Ike is forced to endure what he sees as prison-like treatment at the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy. The humorous story, told through newspaper articles, letters home, and illustrations, conveys Ike's experiences with "hardship and danger" (his words, of course!) at the school, but ends happily after he escapes, rescues Mrs. LaRue from an ongoing truck, and receives a huge party, complete with his favorite tasty dishes. But wait! Look again at the funny side-by-side illustrations of life at Brotweiler! Was existence there really as dismal as Ike reported? (Don't the pictures show cheery room accommodations and directions to the pool?) Readers with sharp eyes will have to decide for themselves!

Set the Stage
Get students ready to read (or listen) by talking first about dog behavior basics:
• Have you ever seen or known a dog that misbehaved?
• What did the dog do (chewed a slipper, jumped up on guests)?
· What was the owner's reaction?

Explain that there are schools, called obedience schools, that train dogs to behave. Often, puppies go there, but sometimes grown dogs go too. Talk about the kinds of training dogs receive there (walk on a leash, sit, come, stay, etc.)

Read aloud and show the pictures up to Ike's letter dated October 1. Guide students to see the humor and contrast in the pictures. Point out that the color illustration shows the spa-like accomodations at Brotweiler while the black-and-white illustration portrays Ike's exaggerated depiction of his wretched life there. Have students look for the side-by-side illustrations in the rest of the book and be ready to talk about what they show.

Review
After students have enjoyed the book, lead a lively discussion with these questions:
• Why did Ike's letters change from typewritten to handwritten ones?
• What were some of Ike's complaints about Brotweiler Canine Academy?
• How did Mrs. LaRue feel about Ike's return home?
• Why are the illustrations so important to understanding the story?

Student Activities

You Can Quote Me
This activity will check students' understanding of the story by evaluating sentences about the plot. Have students draw a paw print in front of each statement that Ike wrote in a letter home.
For younger students you can have them cut around the paw prints at the bottom of the page and glue next to the correct sentence.

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Dog Adventures
Draw a picture of Ike with some of the other dogs at Brotweiler Canine Academy.Then create your own story about each dog's experience in your picture.

Print and Copy the Classroom Activity Now (PDF)

Related Activities
To extend students' enjoyment of the book, try these:

  • Make a large illustrated flipbook entitled Doggy Dos and Don'ts. Fill Side A with things dogs should not do to get along with people (e.g., steal their food). Fill Side B with things dogs should do to get along with people (e.g., save them from oncoming trucks).
  • Find out more about author/illustrator Mark Teague in the Authors and Books section of our site.
  • Working in pairs, have students role play an interview between a television reporter and Ike, after Ike returns home. Have the reporter question Ike about his experiences at Brotweiler.
  • Suggest that students write letters to Ike, telling him what they thought of his adventures.
  • Encourage students to find out about the training dogs actually receive in a dog obedience school in their area.
  • Do students like dog books? Try these: Clifford series, McDuff series, Dot the Fire Dog, Daniel's Dog, and Martha Blah Blah, among others.

Lesson Developed by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods. The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults, Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.