alaska teacher at heart | Teaching in the Tongass

Saturday, March 1, 2014

alaska teacher at heart

As you probably already know, I live in Alaska. Which means I am super fortunate in the fact that we have some pretty neat scenery right in our backyard.  For instance, last year I took my class on a whale watching cruise and we saw a ton of orca, humpback and some loud seals. FUN!
And I went on a hike today with some of my friends from work (let's just call them my friends though, shall we?) and we walked across a glacial lake and up the side of the mountain and then back down again into the glacier. Yes. You read that right, we went inside the glacier. Observe.

 The walk out there and the butt sliding down into the cave (these are my lovely hiking models Carolyn and Meg):
 Me inside the cave and looking up from the same spot:
 Iceberg, right ahead! Couldn't resist.
And being the Alaskan that I am, the Iditarod holds a special place in my heart. When I did my student teaching (4th grade), my required integrated unit was on the Iditarod. I lived, breathed and dreamed Iditarod for 6 whole weeks. Craziness.

Fast forward 6 years later and I'm still slightly obsessed. If you live here in Alaska (907 holla!), chances are you know all about the Iditarod and it's hardcore-ness (or maybe you don't and could care less?), and if you're a "lower 49er" you might also know a lot about the Iditarod and be a fan of the fun! This dogsled race is called The Last Great Race for a reason!  It also happens to make for some highly engaging content and literacy/math/science/social studies for teachers worldwide. Enter: my Iditarod unit. 

I used my MEGA Alaska clipart to create this laminated anchor chart and as we learn, fill it up with important info we could refer back to throughout the unit. 
I also made this checkpoint map with both the Northern (even years) and Southern routes (odd years) so students could have easy access to the names of each checkpoint of the race.
 And of course, we have to have a word wall anchor chart! You can find the clipart I used here.
Here the majority of my Iditarod books...I buy any I can find!
 We're waiting for the snow to melt a little so we can collect rocks to make our Iditarocks!  This is my sample from 2008 when I taught about the Iditarod during my student teaching...had to reglue some of those eyeballs on fo sho!
 Aren't these fingerprint doggies adorable?! Another page from my unit:
And I laminated the bookmarks so they should last a few weeks...hopefully! I found some cute paw print ribbon at JoAnn's...can't wait to give those out next week! These are also found in the Iditarod unit.
I printed out my entire unit and store the masters in page protectors in this binder for easier copying.

After searching 3 different stores for a paper tray that wouldn't be a lot of storage (I have lots of rubbermaid totes in various sizes already) and that I could put at each table group, I realized I already had what I needed. For the centers we used this day, I put one page in the front sleeve (so they knew what center it would be at that table group) and then put the rest inside in the time I'll just run them in the copier with the hole punch option so they stay put better (pockets don't work so well when they're turned upside down!).  Anyway, you might be able to try this out sometime...let me know how it works for you if you do!
 Each table group got a binder and students rotated through the centers when they finished each one.
 Digraph sorting and unscrambling sentences:
Story writing and labeling:
Adopt-a-Dog Journal writing has been a huge hit! They looove it! Each student has a Webkinz plush husky (I use the same ones each year) and they can choose to write to their dog, or write as their dog...either way is fine with me!

We still have lots more to do in the next week or 2 (including following our mushers, some math activities and more dog journaling), and my favorite....a husky craftivity!
You can find all of the Iditarod printables included in this post in my Iditarod BUNDLE below:
What about you? Do you teach about the Iditarod? What sorts of fun activities do you have planned?


  1. That scenery is to die for. I do not think I could cope with the cold though. You are putting my field trips to shame :)
    What an incredible place to live!!!
    My Second Sense

  2. I found a book about the Jr. Iditarod on Reading A-Z that I am using with my highest guided reading group this week. I would love to incorporate more into my whole class lessons as well. I love the adopt-a-dog idea.

  3. I always love your pictures. What a great place to be!

  4. You've inspired me to learn more about the Iditarod. I'm using your craftivity and journals, and borrowed a couple books from the public library. I also discovered a bunch of videos on related youtube. I guess I have a little Alaska fever right now as I also watched "Into Alaska" with Jeff Corwin and shared that with my class as well. And OK, I admit I've also been watching the Ultimate Alaska Survival on TV. Your pictures of Alaska are beautiful, and I really enjoy following your blog.

  5. I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger award. Your blog is one of my favorites and I love reading your post and ideas. You always have great ideas and I love to read what is going on in your class. Visit my blog for all the details if you want to participate. Thanks.


  6. That looks awesome! And your students must be so engaged since it's something that happens in their "neck of the woods". I have to admit being a bit jealous of your scenery. :0


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