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Dog helps first-graders improve their pronunciation

A German shepherd helped first-graders from a Žilina elementary school learn how to pronounce words correctly and improve their vocabulary more quickly. The project “Aj Aida sa učí písmenká” – “Aida Learns Letters, Too”, organised by dog handlers from the K-7 Psovodi (Dog Handlers) civic association and Slovak rescuers, tried to use “dog therapy” to teach children through experiential learning.

A German shepherd helped first-graders from a Žilina elementary school learn how to pronounce words correctly and improve their vocabulary more quickly. The project “Aj Aida sa učí písmenká” – “Aida Learns Letters, Too”, organised by dog handlers from the K-7 Psovodi (Dog Handlers) civic association and Slovak rescuers, tried to use “dog therapy” to teach children through experiential learning.

“Dog therapy” involves children taking part in educational activities with a specially trained dog. The goal of this supportive therapy is to form the emotional, intellectual, communication, social and motor competencies of a child.

During the last academic year, dog handlers helped a total of 12 of the youngest pupils at the elementary school in Jarná Street to learn to read, count and draw, as well as to adapt to routine school tasks, develop communication skills and social competencies, and support team spirit and discipline in class. “The presence of Aida in the lessons helped ease the atmosphere, establish social ties among children, and increase a healthy competitiveness,” Ľubica Bátoryová, of the K-7 association, told the SITA newswire.

“Aida helped children start talking and, thanks to her, they were soon able to express openly and willingly their feelings and emotions. By the end of the first grade, they were able to read stories fully independently and fluently about Aida not wanting to go to school, or about Aida learning to swim. To see children go absolutely silent, listen to a relatively difficult text, watch the dog, and be able to concentrate is a fascinating experience,” Bátoryová said. She added that in the end children reproduced texts without any problems, and were able to find connections, follow details, and enhance their vocabulary.

Class 1st B’s teacher, Darina Mahútová, recommended this type of learning to her colleagues. “Through first-hand experience education, we managed things that seemed impossible in some cases,” she said. “We taught the right pronunciation, enhanced vocabulary, regulated the speed of speaking, and prolonged the attention span more easily.”

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