Animal Heroes Everywhere

Alaska races sled dogs.

In Maryland we race horses.

Alaska has stories about heroic dogs.

We have stories about heroic horses.

My school and I wanted to send greetings to the schools along the trail as a way to kind of let our schools meet each other and to show a connection between schools that are so far apart, and yet have so many commonalities.

My boys and I have been talking all year about the similarities and differences between Alaska and Maryland.  While there are obviously many, many differences, we did find several similarities.  Alaskans race sled dogs. There are different styles of racing dogs – sprint, marathon, etc.  There are many sled dog races throughout the state, the biggest one obviously being the Iditarod.  Here in Maryland, we race horses.  There are different styles of racing horses – speed, agility, steeplechase, sulky, etc.  There are many tracks and many races in Maryland, the biggest being the Preakness which is a part of the Triple Crown.  We have also learned the names and stories of many of the dog heroes of the Iditarod Trail.

Here at Gilman, we all know the story of one particular horse hero above all others.  We all know the story of Goliath, one of the brave horses who helped saved the city during the Great Baltimore Fire.  We all know the story, because one of our very own teachers, Claudia Friddell, researched and wrote a picture book telling Goliath’s story.

So, naturally, Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire became the perfect good will wish to send down the Iditarod Trail.  This week, each of my third graders paired with one of Mrs. Friddell’s first graders to write a letter to accompany a book down the trail to a new school.

We hope the students will enjoy learning about one of our heroes as much as we have enjoyed learning about theirs!

A is For Iditarod!

A is for Iditarod!

“What?” you ask.

A is for Iditarod.

Because the Iditarod awesomely takes place in Alaska and starts in Anchorage!

One of my favorite books to share with my students is A is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatigan.  My third grade boys always roll their eyes when I tell them I am going to share an alphabet book with them – they are WAY too cool for that you know.

But, by the second page they are hooked!

This book is a funny way to show the kids how to play with language, use humor in writing, and teach them a lot about musk oxen!

We used the book as mentor text for our own version of the book A is for Iditarod.  The boys worked in groups to brainstorm ideas and then we combined their ideas together into one book.  We created illustrations, bound them, and then presented them to our kindergarten little buddies as a gift!  It’s a great way for my boys to get some practice reading orally and for the little buddies to learn a little more about our Iditarod obsession!

You can see a fippable copy of our book via Youplisher here: A is For Iditarod Book

Here is a copy of the brainstorming sheet my boys used: A is for Iditarod

Skyping Stone Fox

Last year, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail ™, Linda Fenton issued a challenge to see how many students she could get to read Stone Fox (http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2012/12/28/stone-fox/).  The timing was perfect for me.  The fourth grade had recently dropped the novel from their repertoire, so I was able to pick it up and tie it into my curriculum!  I had never read the book before, and was soon just as hooked as Linda is!  It’s a great novel which is a great choice to teach students about point of view.   It also lends itself to discussion on an authors’ craft as you can discuss why the author made the story telling choices he did.

To begin our novel unit, we did a prediction activity by looking at the various illustrations that have graced covers of various editions of the book.  The boys quickly decided that I chose the book because of the obvious dog sledding connection to the Iditarod!  We discussed what it takes to be a responsible pet owner, as the boys predicted that the boy on the cover must own a dog.  (Here are some ideas if your students need some help:  http://www.loveyourdog.com/whatdogsneed.html).   We also talked about whether or not those responsibilities would be different if we lived in a cold environment and/or if that dog was a working dog instead of a household pet.

 As we had recently finished our unit on the fifty states, we spent a day looking at the setting of the novel.  The students each had a map of Wyoming and we created symbols and a key to identify key locations from the novel:  Jackson (the setting) and the Two Wind Indian Reservation (to represent Stone Fox’s tribe).

The students had predicted that there was a dog sled race involved from looking at the covers of the novels.  I introduced the kids to the International Pedigree Stage Stop Race (http://www.wyomingstagestop.org/) which is a modern day race held in Wyoming each winter. This year’s race begins January 31st.  The race is quite different from the Iditarod in that the mushers stop in towns after each leg.  We added the race route to our Wyoming Map and realized that this contemporary race is held in the same area of the state that the novel is based.  So by looking at photos of the race, we had some aids to help in our visualization of race scenes in the novel.

One of the covers we previewed also had a picture of a person whom my students identified as Native American. So I introduced them to the fact that this character is Shoshone, and that the Shoshone National Forest in also in the same area as the rest of the novel setting, so we added that to the map also!  We also located and identified Yellowstone National Park, because it is also a key location in the northwest corner of Wyoming.  If Yellowstone is new to your students, the Yellowstone Park Rangers do a distance learning program for students through Skype in the Classroom:  https://education.skype.com/projects/2237-yellowstone-national-park-rangers-can-skype-with-classrooms

Since we had already participated in that program, I needed a new Junior Ranger program for my students to complete related to this novel, and I found a great one through Shoshone National Forest.  The Forest Service offers a Junior Forest Ranger Badge program here:  http://na.fs.fed.us/ceredirect/jfr/.   The students complete the packet and send in the back page with an adult’s signature to demonstrate that they have completed the program.  They are awarded a patch and pin and get a membership card that allows them access to a special kid’s only online clubhouse.  The Forest Service also offers a Junior Snow Ranger Program that I am going to use with my guys to talk about winter safety in January:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/conservationeducation/smokey-woodsy/junior-rangers

Once we were finally ready to start reading the novel, we Skyped with Linda Fenton’s class.  I have never tried to simultaneously read and discuss a novel with another class, let alone another class in another state in another time zone… but it was really an amazing experience.  We did a mini-mystery activity by coming up with a list of ten questions to ask the other class, and then using the answers to determine what state we were virtually visiting.  Timing wise, it worked for us to Skype at the start of our Reading class which was at the end of Linda’s Reading class.  So during our first Skype, after determining their location, her students introduce the novel to us and helped pique our interest in reading.  In other Skype sessions throughout the next couple of weeks we discussed character traits for the main characters, shared our surprise at was happening, our feelings on the book vs. movie debate, and then finally shared our end of unit projects.  It was so cool to discuss the book with Linda and her class.  They had a different perspective on the novel and it was also neat for my kids to hear how different some things are between Wisconsin and Maryland!

Our Skype-Shared Brainstorming Chart

Our Skype-Shared Brainstorming Chart

Our final project, to tie together the race in the book, the Iditarod, the Wyoming Stage Stop Race, etc. was that each class designed a sled dog race for their state.  Linda had her kids begin their race in their hometown of Waupaca and then decide where to go to make a one hundred mile race.  They worked in partners to create a race course.  My kids worked as a whole class to create a race across the state of Maryland.  (We actually decided on a Northern Route and a Southern Route so we could visit Baltimore City and Washington, DC on alternating years!)  We decided to start on the Eastern Shore and end in the mountains of Western Maryland.  As a group we chose a series of towns to get us across the state and then they worked in partners to plan the checkpoints.  The partners used online travel sources to determine a great location for their checkpoint, decided what assistance they would be able to provide the teams, and explained all of their thinking.  We put the whole thing together in a Narrated Google Earth Tour, where we were able to fly over our race route and zoom into each checkpoint location and see the details that the boys had planned for each stop.  We quickly discovered there are A LOT of golf courses in Maryland and determined they would make great checkpoints because of the amenities available and the amount of open space for parking teams.

 

Books to the Trail

 The Iditarod Books the Trail program has been running for several years now.  Schools in the lower 48 and others team up with sister schools along the race trail to deliver much needed books to these remote schools.  Recently the Anchorage Public Library has joined our efforts so that even more books can be enjoyed by school children without convenient access to such a broad spectrum of reading material.

On Monday, after camp, Diane Johnson and I visited the Anchorage Library to thank them for their efforts and learn more about a program they have developed called Ready to Read.  This program targets preschool children with the motto “The foundation for reading begins at birth!”

Ready to Read is based on the six basic skills needed to begin reading:  print awareness, print motivation, narrative skills, phonological awareness, letter knowledge and vocabulary.  To encourage the development of these skills the Anchorage Library has created hundreds of tubs of books containing 30-50 board and paperback picture books, a resource guide for the adult childcare provider on a six-week renewable loan.  In addition the program provides bags in which the children can take the books home to share with their families and “lapsit” bags that are thematically created including a music CD and a puppet.  That sounds like a perfect experience all ready to be delivered.

I was understandably excited when I arrived to see shelves and shelves filled with these tubs and tables covered with stacks of books being arranged in themes and it brought back wonderful memories when I spotted some of my favorites.

It will be my job this year on the trail to connect the Books on the Trail with the teachers they have been created for and get the word out there about the Ready to Read program.  Being an English teacher myself I am very excited to be a part of the connection.

If you and your school would like to part of this effort, contact Diane Johnson, Director of the Iditarod Education Department.

Read On,

Blynne

Editor’s Note: Attention Teachers who are located in Alaska, you can get involved with the Ready to Read program. The Anchorage Public Library has a “Ready to Read Resource Center”at the Z.J. Loussac Public Library.  This is a statewide resource for anyone who works with infants and toddlers anywhere in Alaska. For additional information and to find out how to get a free reading tub to your community, click here.

Visit the Anchorage Public Library website at this link.

http://www.muni.org

Finding What Works in the Classroom 2.24.11

Temperature in Wasilla, late morning, 20°F, little wind

Teachers want to know what works in the classroom to facilitate student learning and to achieve growth in their learning. The research-based document,What Works in Classroom Instruction by Robert Marzano, Barbara Gaddy, and Ceri Dean (http://www.leigh.cuhsd.org/teachers/pdf/Marzano_Strategies.pdf),  is a good resource which explains the research behind classroom strategies and their effect. The effect sizes of various strategies range from .59 to 1.61. An effect size of 1.0 is roughly equivalent to one year’s growth in achievement. Please refer to the above article for a table of strategies and effect sizes.

Strategies that were found to strongly affect student achievement include homework and practice, setting goals and providing feedback, non-linguistic representation, summarizing and note-taking, identifying similarities and differences, cooperative learning, reinforcing effort and providing recognition, generating and testing hypotheses, and activating prior knowledge. The two highest effect sizes fell in the strategies of summarizing and note-taking and identifying similarities and differences. This site has helpful information about using these strategies.

http://www.tltguide.ccsd.k12.co.us/instructional_tools/Strategies/Strategies.html

Part of my job as the Target® 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is giving presentations to students in Alaska schools. I started those today.  The presentation gives students a chance to learn aboutsome  similarities and differences of Alaska and North Carolina. Letting students use a Venn diagram, Thinking Maps (double bubble or bubble maps) or write about the differences and similarities of the two states would be methods to carry out a strategy with a high effect size.

The Iditarod Race is a tool to use to create a lesson on note-taking and summarizing or on identifying similarities and differences. Perhaps your area has a sport or race which could be compared and contrasted with the Iditarod, or watch Iditarod Insider video clips to practice taking notes and then organizing those notes into categories. Maybe those categories could be more easily remembered by using non-linguistic representation, another strategy which can positively affect student learning.     

Iditarod is Coming! Fill Your Sled Now!

(Keep on reading to find some ideas of activities for your students to do.)

Mushers carry the following mandatory items in their sleds during the race. I bet you can make this list relevant to what students need to be prepared for their job of school.

  •  Proper cold weather sleeping bag weighing a minimum of 5 lbs.
  • Ax, to weigh a minimum of 1-3/4 lbs., handle to be at least 22” long.
  • One operational pair of snowshoes with bindings, each snowshoe to be at least 252 square inches in size.
  • Any promotional material provided by the ITC.
  • Eight booties for each dog in the sled or in use.
  • One operational cooker and pot capable of boiling at least three (3) gallons of water at one time.
  • Veterinarian notebook, to be presented to the veterinarian at each checkpoint.
  • An adequate amount of fuel to bring three (3) gallons of water to a boil.
  • Cable gang line or cable tie out capable of securing dog team.
  • When leaving a checkpoint adequate emergency dog food must be on the sled. (This will be carried in addition to what you carry for routine feeding and snacking.)
  • http://iditarod.com/pdfs/2011/rules.pdf

Right now, mushers are preparing for the race by freezing and bagging their dogs’ food for the race, planning and preparing their people food and supply bags, running their teams on daily training runs and in races like the Copper Basin, the Sheep Mountain 150, or the Gin Gin 200. I am always curious about names, so I researched how the Gin Gin 200 got its name.

Who was Gin Gin?
The Gin Gin 200 is named after a remarkable dog who dominated a dog kennel for over 10 years. She was an inspiration both on the trail and in the dog yard. She was a dog with unswerving loyalty and stubbornness. She did not know” quit”. Her ability, drive and attitude should serve as an example to dog drivers everywhere.  http://www.gingin200.com/ accessed 1.1.11

Fill your classroom sled with some of these ideas to get your class prepared for the Iditarod.  Choose one way or several ways, or think of your own way to connect your students, your curriculum and the race.

  • Start now visiting www.iditarod.com and  http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/ , the For Teachers section of that site for ideas to use. There is an exciting lesson plan idea using the Blabberize website on the For Teachers section. http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/
  • Read Zuma’s Paw Prints at the For Teachers page. Zuma and other K-9 reporters give you information about the race. http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/
  • Adopt a musher(s) and use this form to chart his/her race progress. http://iditarod.com/pdfs/teacher/MusherDataSheets.pdf Scroll down to find the southern route chart. The southern route is run in odd-numbered years. The race data is free and is found on www.iditarod.com.
  • Create a race route map along your classroom’s walls or down your hallway and move your adopted musher(s) along the map. This link takes you to the race map and access to a list of the mileage between each checkpoint for the southern and northern race routes. http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/2009/11/21/maps-of-the-iditarod-trail/
  •  Teach a novel or read books about the race or related topics. Find books to choose from on these lists.  http://iditarodblogs.com/teachers/iditarod-books/
  • Math problems for elementary and middle school are in December’s posting on this site.
  • Teach students to convert the 24 hour clock time, used to report race times, to 12 hour clock times. Great mental exercise!
  • Temperature charting, wind chill calculation, converting temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius and back again. (See my posting on this site titled Something to Do While You Follow Me! for details)
  • Watch the free Iditarod Insider videos or sign up for this special video view of the race. You and your class can see what’s happening in the race via these clips. http://insider.iditarod.com/

Mushing on,

Martha

Snow!

North Carolina, my home, is a state with very different regions—the Appalachian Mountains in the western part of the state; the rolling land of the Piedmont where I live; the flat coastal farmland edging to the Atlantic Ocean. Snow frequently visits the mountains of NC, but not so often elsewhere in the state.

Snow fell the first two weekends of December in the Piedmont, not much at all, but considering I can’t remember the last time snow fell here in December, the snowfall was remarkable for that fact alone.

Usually the snow that falls here is fluffy flakes; last week the snow looked like tiny balls of Styrofoam. Take a look at the pictures to see it.

Whether you live where snow falls or not, enjoy these books about snow. By Cynthia Rylant, the book titled Snow; Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher which explains scientific process regarding snow; Recess at 20 Below by Alaskan teacher Cindy Lou Aillaud about playing outside in cold weather conditions; The Snowflake-Winter’s Secret Beauty by Kenneth Libbrecht and Patricia Rasmussen; The Truth About Snow People by Blue Lantern Studio, available at Target®; and, of course, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

What books do you already enjoy about snow? Enjoy them again with hot chocolate or apple cider. Happy Winter to you!

Mushing on,

Martha

September Ideas for Your Sled

 It’s after Labor Day and we’re all back in school. I hope you’ve found ways to use the clipart and bookmarks in your classrooms or you have plans to use them during the year.

I‘ve had another remarkable Iditarod experience since school began that I’ll share with you. About two weeks ago, my classroom phone rang, and the caller was a parent of a student at another school in my school system. She had read an article about me in my position as the Target® 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ in a school system publication and was excited to contact me about her family’s history of racing Siberian huskies when they lived in Iowa. The most wonderful part of the call, though, was finding out they were selling a dog sled, only 20 minutes away from me! Last Saturday I picked up my “new” old sled, harnesses, and a gangline as well as some great stories of their dogs and running dog days. And, I got a super lead on the sled’s  history which I’m working to confirm.

Iditarod has provided unexpected opportunities for me over the years; where I least expect a connection, there is one. Who would have thought that in Cabarrus (say kuh bear us) County, North Carolina I’d have a chance to buy a dog sled with some really remarkable history connected to Alaska? It’s like going on a treasure hunt. I bet that you will have remarkable experiences in your classrooms when you use Iditarod as a teaching tool, too.

Here are some lesson ideas my sled generated. I can’t wait to hear about the activities and results you get when you try these.

  1. Use the photo of the sled next to the Toyota Prius as a writing prompt.  Compare and contrast the two types of transportation, their size, their purpose, their use, where they are used; create an analogy between the dogpowered transportation and the mechanical energy saving transportation; write a dialogue between the sled and the car; choose either the sled or the car and write about why it is a superior form of transportation; write about what you can do with the sled that you can’t do with the car.
  2. Write a story from the sled’s point of view.
  3. Write about a race the sled was in.
  4. Persuade someone to buy this sled with an illustrated advertisement.
  5. Build your own small scale sled using popsicle sticks.
  6. Use a computer program to design your sled.
  7. Create an illustration of the sled and team using an art technique such as mosaic, pencil, or collage.
  8. Write a fable about the sled and the car. (This reminds me of The Tortoise and the Hare fable.)

Mushing on,

Martha

Literacy Lessons by Cathy Walters, Target® 2009 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

Literacy Lessons by Cathy Walters, Target® 2009 Teacher on the Trail™

* These lessons support literacy goals. The lessons are brain based and often encourage students to move through music or be physically active.  The lessons can be easily integrated into curriculum content and although they are developed for ‘younger students’, the lessons are easily adaptable to other age levels.

Cathy’s lesson plans and articles require Acrobat Reader

Readers Theater

Grade Level: PK-Kindergarten: Readers Theater 1

First and Second Grade: Readers Theater 2

Language arts, reading, plays

Lesson Summary: Readers Theater is the reading of a text in a play-like fashion. This lesson includes 2 scripts.  The first script is geared towards pre-readers. The teacher reads the portion of the script that moves the story, and students respond with a refrain or simple lines that are repetitive and easy to learn. The second script is for written for first and second grade students. Although props and costumes can be involved in an elaborate Readers Theater, most involve the children simply reading the text with good fluency. By performing a Readers Theater, students are given an excellent reason to read, reread, and reread a text.

Worksheet: Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Script
Worksheet: First and Second Grade Script
Polar Bears

Grade level: PreKindergarten, Kindergarten, Reading, Social Studies

Lesson Summary: After reading Polar Bears by Gail Gibbons students will complete an ABC or 123 dot-to-dot of a polar bear. The teacher will read the Polar Bear Fact sheet and students will point to the corresponding physical feature on their completed dot-to-dot polar bear. After all the facts have been read, students watch the National Geographic Video. The teacher then introduces the polar bear song to the children.

Worksheet: ABC Dot-to-Dot
Worksheet: 123 Dot-to-Dot
Worksheet: Polar Bear Fact Sheet
Worksheet: Polar Bear Song Sheet
Alaska’s Arctic Animals

Grade Level: PreKindergarten/Kindergarten, Reading/Social Studies/Science

Lesson Summary: During the study of Alaska’s Arctic animals and where they live students will be able to tell the teacher one cold fact about each animal. A cold fact is anything that tells how these animals survive in such a harsh environment. Two facts, for example, that help the willow ptarmigan survive are that he turns white in the winter (his camouflage) and that he grows extra feathers in the winter, even on his feet (for warmth). This information is reviewed and reinforced by playing the Arctic Animal Memory Game and Arctic Animal Bingo.

Willow Ptarmigan – Master of Disguise

Grade level:  PreKindergarten – 5th Grade, Reading, science, art

Lesson Summary: After conducting the toothpick experiment and reading Gone Again Ptarmigan,  students will see in this art activity how important camouflage is to Alaska’s state bird, the willow ptarmigan and other Arctic animals. (Other Arctic animals that change their coats or feathers with the season are the Arctic fox, the short-tailed weasel (known as ermine in their winter coats),the snowy owl, and the snowshoe hare. Polar bears keep their camouflage all year long!)

Worksheet: Ptarmigan Stencil
Iditarod in Rhyme and Song

Grade Level:  Pre- Kindergarten and beyond Language Arts, Brain based learning, movement, music

Worksheet: Iditarod Song Sheet
Worksheet: Iditarod Song Chart
Worksheet: Iditarod, Iditarod, A Dog Sled Race Song Sheet
Literacy and Fluency Instruction

Grade Level:  Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, Reading Readiness

Lesson Summary: Students demonstrate understanding of an area that you are emphasizing in your instruction by circling or underlining on the “Five Little Huskies.” handout. For example, students can circle all the capital letters in the poem.

Worksheet: Five Little Huskies Poem
Sing to Read

Grade Level:  Pre-Kindergarten and beyond

Lesson Summary: Students will learn strategies to decode the word “Iditarod.” They will identify all letters by name and sound, place the letters in the correct order and orally read “Iditarod” as a sight word.

Worksheet: Iditer-cise Song Sheet
Worksheet: Iditarod Puzzle
Worksheet: Photo of Student in Action
Mush Art Lesson
Grade level:  Pre- Kindergarten and beyond Lesson summary:Students will observe Jon Van Zyle’s Iditarod art as well as some of his other work showing the beauty of Alaska. They will learn a song about Jon and then draw their own Mush! Art following a step-by-step format.

Worksheet: Jon Van Zyle Song Sheet
Worksheet: How to Draw a Husky
Worksheet: How to Draw a Musher and Sled
Where on the Globe is Alaska? (Language Arts, Geography)
Grade Level:  Pre-Kindergarten
Lesson Summary:Students will learn the location of Alaska on the globe and on a map, name bodies of water and countries to the north, south, east, and west of Alaska and learn one or two facts about the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Canada, and Russia

Worksheet: Where on the Globe is Alaska? song sheet
Worksheet: Where on the Globe is Alaska? Song Chart
Memory Map (geography)
Grade Level:  Pre-Kindergarten and Beyond, Social Studies, Reading
Lesson Summary: Location recognition
Worksheet: Daily Map of Alaska to Label
Hike! (Classroom Management)
Worksheet: Husky Stencil
Worksheet: Musher and Sled Stencil
RACE Necklace – Character Education

Grade Level:  Pre-Kindergarten and Beyond, Reading, Listening Skills, Spelling, Character Education

Lesson Summary: Students string beads in the order the teacher’s directions indicate.

Character Education Lesson Suggestions

Respect and Responsibility – Character Education
Worksheet: Respect and Responsibility Song
Attitude – Character Education
Worksheet: Attitude Song

These lessons were first posted on the website August, September, and October 2008, by Cathy Walter, Target® 2009 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, North Carolina

Visit this link to Cathy’s Idita-Tunes. Listen to the music.  View the lesson plans.