Stone Fox

Students wearing the Aurora Borealis T-Shirts

Students wearing the Aurora Borealis T-Shirts

In order to keep students engaged the last week of school before the Holiday Break, I had them read Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.  This is a great book of friendship, family and the love between a boy and his dog.  All the things to keep students wanting to turn the page and go on to the next chapter are in this book.  My students are third graders, but it would be a good read aloud for 2nd graders and I know teachers thru middle school who have used it in their classroom.  (I don’t want to spoil the ending, but keep a tissue handy.)

I’d like to keep track of how many students we can get to read this book.  If you have already read it with your students (or when you read it in the future), please send me your name, grade level, number of students who read the book and your city & state at:

Full lesson plan with activity ideas are attached.  The attached Venn Diagram is for watching the movie Stone Fox after you have read the book.  It’s a great lesson in how much is changed when making movies.

Stone Fox

Stone Fox.2

Aurora Borealis T-Shirts


With Thanksgiving being early this year, I had an extra week to prepare for Christmas.  With the overconfidence of that extra week, I was totally unprepared for this last week before Christmas and gifts for my students.  Without completely knowing what I was going to do with them, I purchased plain white t-shirts and went to You Tube for suggestions.

DSC_0995I always try to tie in gifts with what we are doing in class and this year, of course, it is all about the Iditarod.  You Tube had lots of suggestions on creating colorful shirts with fabric paint or spray paint.  I did my usual borrow and tweak, and came up with Aurora Borealis T-Shirts.

I don’t have a formal lesson plan for this so I’ll just explain what I did.  StudentsDSC_1010 cut out the templates of the dog teams and used glue sticks to glue them onto their t-shirts.  Using spray paint and a well ventilated garage I scrunched the shirts and sprayed with blue – re-scrunched and sprayed with red – I gave a final scrunch and sprayed them yellow.  The template easily lifted off the shirts.  Once dry, I put them in the washer and dryer.  I love how they turned out!

Students can also create t-shirts themselves using fabric paint.  (I chose to use spray paint because it is less expensive and when I’ve tried to spray fabric paint in the past it has clogged.)  Each student will have their own unique t-shirt to remind them of the Aurora Borealis and the Iditarod.

Light A Candle

I’m having a difficult time coming up with words for this post, but I can’t ignore yesterday’s tragedy because as teachers, we have a connection to one another.  There are already countless stories of the heroic actions of teachers as a gunman reigned terror on their once safe haven.  I can’t wrap my brain around the pain and sorrow of the parents who lost children and the children who lost parents.  Let’s work together to assure this doesn’t happen again.

Don’t let the light go out,
It’s lasted for so many years!
Don’t let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears!

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe;
Light one candle for those who are suffering
The pain that we learned long ago;
Light one candle for all we believe in,
That anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!

Peter, Paul & Mary

Walk the Trail

DSC_0842Each time someone enters my classroom, they are remindedDSC_0849 of the upcoming Iditarod.  There are 2 large maps, several pictures, daily high and low temperatures in Waupaca and Nome, news articles, and much more.

One of the maps in the entry is for students to track the progress on their IditaWalk.  Each day when my students walk into the classroom, the first thing they do is put on a pedometer.  Their goal is to “Walk” the Iditarod Trail.  It started simply – converting their steps to miles (2,000 steps = 1 mile) and moving their marker along the trail.  As time went on I made things more complicated.  PAWS (Pulling Ahead With Students) is a theme I’m using this year for Character Education. Students can earn dog paws for doing DSC_0850something “good”.  4 paws = 1 dog.  With 2 dogs, students can multiply their daily miles by 2.  With 4 dogs, they can multiply by 3, and so on.  They had to think of a theme for their dog team and name their dogs.  While they haven’t formally been introduced to multiplication yet, they are multiplying to figure out their daily progress.  They are also moving more to pick up steps on their pedometers.  Win – win.DSC_0840

A few students thought this was going to be easy and within a few weeks they would have walked the entire trail.  They are now realizing it’s a lot longer than they anticipated.  They are also learning names of checkpoints and the distance between them.  The attached lesson plan and activity sheets are a little different than what I am doing this year, but it gives a basic overview.  Take the general idea and make it your own.

Classroom Iditawalk

IditaWalkTracker copy


Iditarod Brochure

DSC_0834My students worked hard the past week making brochures to inform about the Iditarod.  The attached lesson plan suggests using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, but this year we created it in Printshop.  We set it up like a card so students had 4 panels to work with (single fold instead of tri-fold).  After putting together the cover, students focused on Mandatory Items, The Dogs, and Interesting Facts.  They not only used theirDSC_0838 typing and Internet search skills, they were also able to be creative choosing colors and headings that appealed to them.  Having 4 panels instead of 6 gave them more room for pictures and text.  The final product was a professional looking brochure they can be proud to share.

While third graders focused on certain aspects of the Iditarod, this lesson can easily be modified for older and younger students.  Other brochure topic suggestions include Checkpoints, Dog Care, Dog Sleds, etc. DSC_0859