February 2015 | Teaching in the Tongass

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

iditarod activities for the classroom

If you don't already know this about me, I was born and raised in Alaska, and I still live here. My family came to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush and we've been here ever since! Ever since I was in 4th grade, I have been in love with the Iditarod. My 4th grade teachers taught an Iditarod unit that was so comprehensive, we even did an Iditarod relay in gym class. It was the unit of all units. THE Susan Butcher even visited our school (and her photo is still in the library where I went to school and my son now goes to school). For an Alaskan, that's the equivalent of Michael Jordan (we don't really have major league sports teams here--so many of us cheer on Iditarod mushers instead). So, needless to say, when I started my student teaching year (at that same school I went to), I designed an Iditarod unit. Just as I had imagined, I saw the excitement and thrill in my students faces and knew I had hit a teacher jackpot. A topic I could get them engaged with, all the while integrating literacy, math, science, technology, and art.
Tips and activities for learning about the Iditarod in your classroom
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which allows me to receive a small commission, which I use to offset my own cost of operating this blog.

Update: Due to Iditarod trademark, I can no longer sell my Iditarod Unit. However, I have great news! I replaced it with this EVEN BETTER Husky Fun! unit with editable pages. It contains a TON (it's 286 pages!) of activities and has an overall husky theme and would be a perfect addition to your own Iditarod studies. Feel free to check it out here and read more about what is included in the description.
Kids ABSOLUTELY LOVE making these Iditarod crafts (a husky craft and a musher craft)!!! They seriously could not get enough! They're editable, so you can type whatever writing prompt or title you want on the top. They are easy cut and paste crafts (also included is a girl musher, not shown), which means your students won't be wasting time tracing on construction paper and cutting and can focus on the writing instead (something your Admin will probably appreciate!).
Here's a tip that you may or may not have heard about. I printed some clipart, glued it onto a blank poster paper and laminated it. Now I can write on it with a dry-erase marker and reuse it every year!
 And I also added a quick reusable Iditarod word wall anchor chart for students to reference when writing.
The Red Lantern Award is given to the last musher to cross the finish line in Nome, so of course, I had to have one to stress the importance of hard work and determination by awarding this one to a student that shows those same characteristics each day during our unit. You can get a red lantern for your own classroom here. I also brought in a pair of fleece dog booties to show the class what the dogs in the Iditarod wear to protect their feet from the ice! You can find the booties here. They loooved these 2 artifacts. Sometimes it's the smallest things that get them excited.
We begin our week by learning about the mushers that are in this year's race (I printed off their biographies). Students were responsible for writing about their musher and personalizing a mini musher to keep track of each day on the checkpoint bulletin board.
I keep all of the biography pages in clear page protectors in this binder for future reference as well.
Here is how I organize the musher tracking as they make progress along the trail.
 Then, we colored these Musher Trading Cards, added neat facts we found (think Pokemon power info, but mushers!) to the back of each card, and let the exchanges begin! I even made dog trading cards because they really got into the Adopt-a-Dog journaling and developing characters out of their dogs this year!
I like to included as much math and literacy as I can in every unit I write. This one is no exception! 
Multiplication and division is much more engaging when puppy food is involved!
 Brushing up on our expanded form skills again:
 Doubles and doubles +1 practice:
 We used these number bonds to practice our splitting of tens and ones:
Ohhh the importance of 10's Friends!!!! We can't practice this enough!
Solving for an unknown and fractions!
Fingerprint dogsleds! Sooo cute!
Reading Iditarod books and working on Adopt-a-Dog journals:
And...you guessed it! Another anchor chart :)

And YOU HAVE GOT TO CHECK THIS OUT! A super sweet volunteer made this whole thing for us to hang up! You can't tell from the photo, but each of those flags are cut out construction paper, not printed from the internet! And the letters are all bordered with black and layered on top of yellow...it looks A-MAZING in real life. Trust me. I was speechless when I opened up the delivery! I promptly cut it out and laminated it so I could hug it all night hang it up in the hallway with our other Iditarod stuff.
 I printed these bookmarks, laminated them and used pawprint ribbon from the local craft store to make them extra special and fun.
I've also compiled a list of Iditarod related books...these are some of my favorites! 
I typically start off by reading this text because it tells the story of how the Iditarod came to be:

And most students have heard of the story of Balto, who was famous for running the last leg of the relay, but none of them ever hear the story of Togo, the dog on the team that ran the most miles by far, which leads to a great discussion about working as a team and heroism:
Then, I read this book as it has a lot of basic information about mushers and what being in the Iditarod is like:
And this Iditarod text I picked up at a Scholastic Book Fair is perfect for close reading:
Some of the books in my display area:
So that's it! I hope you and your class have a wonderful experience learning about the Iditarod this year and if you have any questions, feel free to comment!

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Iditarod Activities for kids
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