Our Class Pet named “EGBDF”
I knew as soon as I started teaching that I wanted a class pet. I’m always looking for a way to make a personal connection with kids and kids love animals! Why not make a connection to what we’re learning in class at the same time? Here’s what I did to turn an ordinary fish into EGBDF, class pet and treble clef master!
I first heard about this idea when I was student teaching in college. A classmate’s cooperating teacher had a class pet (a gerbil I think) that she named E-G-B-D-F to help kids remember the names of the notes on the treble clef staff. I thought this was an amazing idea to help kids remember the treble clef lines and spaces. Kids love animals and would naturally gravitate to the class pet, making it easier for them to remember his/her name and the story that goes with it.
I knew I needed to change the idea for my classroom since I didn’t want to have to deal with a furry creature, wanted less upkeep duties, and needed something cheap that I could easily replace when the pet inevitably died. So, I got a betta fish as a class pet. These fish are quite cheap and you can get them at PetSmart or even big-box stores like Walmart. The fish tank and rocks cost a few dollars and fish food isn’t expensive either. He should be fed every day or every other day, meaning you can go the weekend without feeding him and he’ll be okay.
Introducing EGBDF to the Kids
When I tell Kind/1st/2nd graders about him I tell them his whole name “Eegee B. DiEff” but I mention that they can just call him “Eegee” or even “EG” for short. They love EGBDF merely for the fact that he’s a fish and they can look at him and go and say hi to him when they walk in the room. For my youngest students he’s just a fun part of the music room but the name doesn’t yet mean anything special.
The story of EGBDF gets really fun when we get to third grade and students actually start learning about the musical staff. I refer back to the fish (that they’ve talked to and loved on for a few years) and ask them his name. I remind them of the whole name and a lightbulb goes off. “OH. MY. GOSH. Mr, Row! The names of the line notes are the name of your fish!!!” Bam! And then I mention that EG would say that he has a very handsome “F-A-C-E.” Kids are instantly excited and love that they’re now in on the joke.
One cool thing about the betta fish is that if you hold a mirror up to him he’ll flare out his little gills and fluff himself up. These fish are “fighting fish” and if you show them their reflection they’ll try and puff up to scare it off, thinking that another fish is in their territory. Kids know that he likes looking in the mirror and puffing up for his reflection so to say EGBDF has a very handsome “FACE” is an easy connection.
Yes, EGBDF is a weird name for a fish. Of course I could just call him Beethoven or something, but the kids remember this special name. They know it’s weird but they also know that it’s unique. The kids remember the name and after saying it a couple of times they don’t question that it’s weird, instead they actually like it. I’m sure that years down the road the kids will think back and reflect on how weird I am… but at the same time they’ll remember the notes of the treble clef.