Hot Cocoa With a Side of Poetry

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Hot Poems on a Cold Day

 

I have spent a great deal of time getting to know our 2016 Iditarod mushers this year.  My special focus has been to share the stories of the rookie mushers, and their personal journey to the starting line.  Like many teachers we have a poetry unit each year, but I wanted to find an Iditarod musher who also loved poetry that could share with us.  That was no easy task, but I found the perfect person for the job.

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Photo courtesy of Iditarod

Elliot Anderson is a 2016 Iditarod rookie musher who hails from Wisconsin.  He loves the great outdoors, and has had many adventures, from working on a horse ranch in Wyoming, to being a tour guide on the Mendenhall Glacier running dogs.  

Being a musher in Alaska is not an easy life.  I asked him what his inspiration was to come here, live in the wilderness, and run dogs. Elliot loves the poetry of Robert Service, the British-Canadian writer who has often been called “the bard of the Yukon”, and told me a story from his childhood that inspired him to one day give up many modern amenities and move to Big Lake to live out his dream.  He shared with me a personal story from his childhood:

My favorite poem that means the most to me is “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.  My second favorite is ” The Spell of the Yukon”. My third favorite is ” The Men Who Don’t Fit In”.   The “Cremation of Sam McGee” inspired me to come to Alaska because my dad would say the poem while next to a campfire in the summer nights.  He memorized the poem and would say it very dramatic like.  My dad went to Alaska in the 70’s and worked as a gold miner for a company.  He fell in love with the lifestyle.  He showed me bits of that lifestyle when I grew up in Wisconsin.  He has an old rough looking Robert service book that I would look at.

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David Anderson, Elliot’s father

 

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

That inspiration was just what we needed.  We imagined ourselves around the campfire, drinking hot cocoa and reading our favorite poems to each other.  In our classroom we wrote haiku, free verse, alliteration, rhymes, cinquains, and shape poems.  We wrote haiku about the northern lights, rhymes about huskies on the trail, diamante about snow falling, and shape poems about sleds.  I’m sure every teacher has their own special Iditarod-themed poems they can use in this project.  We wrote and illustrated our final drafts on a paper hot chocolate cup that eventually were placed into a paper sleeve from local coffee shops.  The results were “good to the last drop!”

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Hot cocoa with a side of poems

 

As we worked on our “cocoa cup” poems, I placed them into a hanging shoe rack so they were out of the way but could showcase their beautiful work.  It took us several weeks to work through and illustrate all of our poems, but this is a wonderful project to work on all year long, and add to your cocoa cup collection hanging on the wall. 

 

Iditarod mushers are such interesting people, with many passions and hobbies in life.  To find a musher who loves poetry as much as we do was a real treat.  Elliot told me that this father will be waiting for him when he crosses the finish line in Nome.  What a remarkable journey.  My students and I will be cheering him on as well!

 

 

Coffee Sleeve Template

Hot Cocoa Template

 

 

Enjoy a slideshow of my students in our “northern lights nook” showing off their favorite cocoa cup poem:

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Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

Ode to Iditarod

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An Iditarod Valentine’s Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day and the Iditarod, my students and I worked together to write a special form of poetry called an ode.  An ode is an exaggerated poem that celebrates something ordinary as extraordinary.  They are great fun to write because they use figurative language, vivid verbs, expressive language, personification, and can be over-the-top and a little silly. 

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Ode to a Husky

An ode does not have to rhyme, but some of my students decided to take up the challenge.  We read some mentor text in Writer’s Workshop, and noticed that odes sometimes repeat phrases and have an over-the-top exaggerated voice.  Our first ode was written from the point of view of a devoted musher to a husky.  

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Oh Iditarod!

We wrote another ode from the point of view of a fan of the race.  How would we all feel if there was no Iditarod?  Would huskies lose their joy?  We had many giggles exaggerating our writing for this project.

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Ode to Iditarod

We were inspired by our odes of gratitude for the Last Great Race on Earth®, so we decided to make our own compliment booklets to each other in honor of Valentine’s Day.  Peter Cameron, an innovative educator in Ontario, Canada and fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, has a wonderful blog called Mr. C’s SharesEase that is a great resource for teachers.  He shared his friendship booklet idea, and I knew that would be a wonderful way to end our day.

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A friendship compliment booklet

Christine Hinkle, my friend and 4th grade teammate, created a blank 11 X 14 page of strips for each of our students to fill in with a compliment for someone else.  This activity could be turned into an Iditarod-themed booklet very easily.  Students could use Iditarod facts to write a compliment or a thank you note from a different point of view as a short formative assessment.  How would a musher compliment his team?  How would a husky dog compliment a dog bootie?  The possibilities are endless!

Each year, Eanes Elementary School students bring in a decorated “mailbox” for our Valentine’s Day parties in the classroom.  Boxes are lovingly decorated with creatively engineered openings for students to deliver cards.  Many students save them and reuse them from kindergarten through 5th grade.  It is a lovely tradition.  Several of my students chose an Iditarod theme for their cards and treats this year!

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Blank Compliment Booklet Sheet – 11X14

Oh Iditarod!

Ode to the Great Race

Ode to a Husky

Ode to Iditarod Lesson Plan

Ode to Iditarod Checklist

And now…take a moment to see the Valentine’s Day fun in the 2016 Iditarod classroom this year as we delivered our notes and treats to our friend’s mailboxes:

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The perfect Valentine’s Day card for me!

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

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