The Important Thing About Dogs


My fourth grade students, the 2016 Iditarod Class at Eanes Elementary School! We are excited to share!

The first day of school is always filled with nervous excitement for teachers.  What will we learn from each other?  How can we share our passion with others, outside of the four walls of our classroom?  This day was filled with special anticipation for me, as the 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ facing the unique responsibilities of this honor.

The first day of school for my class was filled with enthusiasm and an eagerness to share our passion about the Iditarod with the world.  On the second day of school, we started our first lesson.  As rookie musher, Gwenn Bogart, told me at the musher sign-up picnic in June, “It’s all about the dogs.”  So, that is where we began.

For nearly 20 years I have given a quick-write activity as a formative assessment the first week of school.  I use The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, as a guide to create our own version in class.  This simple activity tells me a lot about my students and their writing, attention to details, vocabulary, and artistic talents.  It is a lovely assessment that we turn into a class book each year.  For this lesson, we wrote about our love of dogs.

The Important Things About Dogs

rough draft template

primary template

upper grade template

First, we brainstormed in Writer’s Workshop and thought of all the reasons that dogs make our lives special.  We worked together on our “Important Book” rough drafts, first sharing out ideas, then writing at our table groups.  I no longer use individual desks in my classroom, instead, we use different “community” learning spaces to help us work together on our projects all year.  Collaboration is the key to a 21st century learning space, and the sharing and learning that happens is remarkable.

Sharing our projects digitally is a very important part of our classroom throughout the year.  There are many computer web-based programs and apps that allow teachers to do what was once unthinkable; share and make connections globally, easily, and with little or no cost.

For this project I used a web-based program to create a digital version of our paper class book.  In this post I am highlighting three web-based, free photo editing programs that can allow you to create wonderful movies from video and photos.  Magisto, Windows Movie Maker, and Fantashow are some of my favorites.  They have wonderful themes and special effects to help teachers create and share student work digitally.

First, I used the school copy machine and scanned in each piece of writing, which then emailed it to me, creating a digital version.  A teacher can just as easily take a photo of student writing and create a JPEG image to download on their computer.  Then, I added it to my computer and recorded each student reading their special piece.  I simply added a song from iTunes that I purchased, and the result is a lovely digital version of The Important Book that I can now share out to the world. We hope you enjoy the results below, and feel inspired to create digital versions of your special projects throughout the year.

Introducing, in all their glory, the 2016 Iditarod class!  Expect to be amazed, laugh, and find joy each week this year from these 19 incredible fourth graders!  Join us on our special journey as we celebrate the beauty and unique features of Alaska and bring to the life the Last Great Race on Earth® for teachers and students around the world.  Follow us!