Grades 5-8 (Lessons could be adapted for other levels)
Diamond Willow is a young Alaskan girl of Athabaskan and European descent who wants nothing more than to be allowed to mush her team of dogs alone to her grandparents’ house. When her first solo trip results in a horrible accident that blinds her family’s favorite lead dog, she decides to take matters into her own hands to save her beloved friend. Along the way she learns an amazing fact about her family. She is guided on her path by animals who are in fact her ancestors who watch over her.
Author Helen Frost writes the novel in a series of diamond shape poems that reveal hidden messages which give the reader an even closer insight into Diamond Willow’s thoughts. The poems are interspersed with sections from the point of view of Diamond Willow’s ancestors.
This unit plan features work with texts sets that allow students to investigate non-fiction texts about blind sled dogs (including one that ran the 2015 Iditarod!) as they attempt to offer the family advice on what to do following the accident. The students also explore the author’s craft as they write their own diamond shaped and found poems. As an extension, students explore what it would be like to be a blind musher as they explore a text set about musher Rachael Scdoris, who was the first legally blind musher to complete the Iditarod and who has plans to run the race again in the near future!
Click here to view the Book Unit Plan: Diamond Willow