Tales from the Trail: Ghosts of the Trail

“… make sure you leave something (such as food) for the Old Woman when you leave.  You don’t want her ghost chasing you to Nome and throwing bad luck your way.”  From Don Bower’s Trail Notes  http://iditarod.com/about/the-iditarod-trail/

2013-06-26 11.42.03So much of the Iditarod Trail is the history.  With that history come the stories of the people of the trail and of the people who have perhaps never left the trail.  Mushers tell stories of seeing other mushers and teams dressed in old clothing and hearing cheers along the trail.  In addition to the actual ghost towns the trail passes through like Ophir and Iditarod, are the stories of the ghost of the Old Woman on the trail between Kaltag and Unalakleet.

There are versions of the Old Woman legend according to an article published in the Alaska Dispatch (http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/ghosts-alaskas-iditarod-trail).   One version tells of a woman who died in an avalanche as a result of a curse for doing men’s work on a mountain used by men as a hunting lookout.  Another version says that the woman and her husband were trappers who lived in the area long ago and were caught in an avalanche. The woman was buried and her husband, refusing to leave her, eventually died on the mountain as well.

One of my favorite things to do at this time of year when I taught fifth grade was to challenge the boys to write ghost stories that were set along the trail.  They could set them in one of the Gold Rush turned Ghost Towns found on the trail or along a lonely section of the trail like where the Old Woman cabin is found between Kaltag and Unalakleet.

I would love to share some of your students’ stories in the Student Tales section of the website!

Ghosts of the Trail

Mushing Towards Understanding Non-Fiction Text Features

My students, maybe because they are boys, seem to gravitate towards non-fiction texts. They love to pour over the pictures and stats that fill their favorite non-fiction books.  But, I have noticed that they don’t always use all of the features in the book like captions and sidebars to their advantage as readers, and they certainly don’t carry those elements over into their own non-fiction writing.

The non-fiction book, Mush!  Sled Dogs of the Iditarod, published by Scholastic is a great book to use to introduce features of non-fiction texts to your students (and sneak a little Iditarod knowledge in too)!  I introduced this book to my boys after we had finished our first fiction novel and had analyzed the elements of a story.  I began by having the boys search through Mush with sticky notes in hand, marking everything they found that isn’t typically found in fiction novels.  After we discussed them, the boys made posters that explained the various features and why authors may choose to use these devices in their books.  The posters will serve as our anchor charts for this unit.

As we read the book, we focused on using those non-fiction text elements to pull out important details. We made bio cubes highlighting Dallas Seavey’s accomplishments, debated if mushers are as athletic as their dogs, identified characteristics of huskies, and compared and contrasted changes in race equipment over time.

Attached is the unit plan with five days of lessons (although, truth be told, the bio cubes took two days – one to plan and to create).  I’ve also posted one of my student’s responses to whether or not mushers are as athletic as their dogs here:  LINK  Don’t forget to send me your student’s writings!  I’d love to post as many as I can!

Mush Unit Plan

Cube Planning Sheet