Tales (and Tails) from the Trail

MUSH on to a Great School Year!!

MUSH on to a Great School Year!!

Since my school year has officially begun, (I have been at inservice training the past two days),  I wanted to take a minute to tell you about my plans for the year and the blog, and let you know some ways that you can join me on this amazing journey by dogsled!

One of the things that has always intrigued me about the Iditarod are the stories. Everyone has a story to tell about their involvement in the race, and I could sit and listen to those stories for hours and hours and hours.

As an educator, I know the things that draw my kids in the most are stories.  Any time that I can begin a lesson with, “Hey!  Do you want to hear a story?” or “I have a story that goes with that,” I immediately have their attention.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a week long seminar with Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University.  Her work in getting students interested in writing by encouraging them to record and value their own stories had a huge impact on my teaching of writing.

And so… my theme for my year as ExxonMobil Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is going to be “Tales (and Tails) from the Trail.”  My goal is two-fold.  First, I hope to present to you lessons that are prefaced with a story to help get your kids intrigued.  So, when I give you a lesson about the Iditarod Trail as a mail route, the lesson will begin with a story about Joe Redington and why the mushers carry trail mail.  When I present a lesson about the Alaska Gold Rush and how it ties to the trail, the lesson will begin with a story about miners picking gold off the beaches of Nome.

Secondly, I’m trying to gather as many Trail stories as I can to share with you.  There is a link at the top of the page where I am collecting stories from mushers, volunteers, and others.  My plan is to use some of these stories in my Writing Workshop mini-lessons, and I hope you can find a use for them also!

You may notice that there is also a link for Student Stories!  This is where you come in!  I hope that as your students do some writing about the Iditarod, they will share it with me to be published here!  They could write stories, poems, plays… anything.  I’d love to read it all and publish as much of it as I can. There is a link at the left to email them to me.  Another great way to keep in touch with me is via Skype.  I’d love to talk with you and your class either before and/or during the race as much as I possibly can. You can email me for details about that also.

Along the way, we are going to be meeting, hearing stories from, and following a rookie musher as she begins her training and also a former handler for a high-profile racer.  I will be sharing lots of math lessons (the Iditarod IS my math curriculum from January to April) and showing lots of other ways the race is embedded in my classroom. Once February and March roll around, I will be bringing your the race directly from Alaska (how cool is that!?!?)!

I’m looking forward to jumping on the sled with you…. please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with your journey down the trail.

Filling the Dog Yard!

One more idea for room set up as the summer starts to wind down….

I am calling my classroom the 3A Dog Yard these days…. for reasons that I am sure you can understand!  To get my students in the Iditarod Spirit from day one and as a way to get to know each other, we create these puppy glyphs on the first day of school.

Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection.  You might be reminded of “hieroglyphic” and think about picture writing.  My kids are always interested in “real life” examples of glyphs – like dentists who record cavities on a a picture of teeth or a chiropractor who records aches on a skeletal picture.  The glyphs allow doctors to record and analyze data more quickly.

My hallway bulletin board greets my students looking like this:


The students create the puppy glyphs by answering questions about their interests and study habits and then cutting and pasting the pieces according to their answers. When they are finished, they get added to the bulletin board.

Following a discussion about how mushers and kennel owners sometimes name their litters in themes, we choose a litter theme, name the puppies and then create an information sheet about the puppies that gets bound together in a classroom book.  You can see our book about the Breakfast Cereal Litter from last year here:  http://www.youblisher.com/p/482033-Meet-the-Puppies/ 

Here are hints you might want to know:

1. I didn’t create the image for my bulletin board!  I borrowed it from the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. coloring book you can find here:  http://leppro.com/portfolio/pdfs/source/MusherBook.pdf

2.  The online version of our book was made with Youblisher:  http://www.youblisher.com/

kerpoof pic3. My friend, middle school science teacher Laurie Starkey, did the same project with her kids digitally using Kerpoof Studio:  http://www.kerpoof.com/

illustmaker pic4.  Older kids might enjoy making a digital musher avatar instead of a puppy.  Illustrator Maker has a lot of good choices. They could use types of headgear, items held, and even accessories as the responses to the questions:  http://illustmaker.abi-station.com/index_en.shtml

5,  You could also use these activities to show answers to a set of problems instead.  In that case, the design of the picture would be determined by the correct answers to the problems.  It could be a fun way to review a topic!

6.  Click here for the full lesson plan:  Filling the Puppy Yard 2.  Click here for the glyph pattern:  Puppy Glyph Patterns.

Hope your room setup is going well!  I am headed in on Wednesday to get mine started!