Iditarod as a Tool for Learning

Paws Along the Trail with Similes

I often need to tell people that I don’t teach the Iditarod.  The Iditarod race is a tool for teaching my required curriculums of math, reading, writing, social studies, and science.  As I’ve written previously, I feel that one of a teacher’s biggest dilemmas is motivating students to want to learn. “If a teacher just does this program, then students will learn…” say many professional theorists. However, when we teachers are in the trenches day in and day out, theories don’t often cut it.  No one plan works all the time.  We are constantly reading our student audience and responding with a variety of tools/teaching methods to help them learn.  That’s where incorporating the Iditarod helps.  It’s such a novel idea that children definitely perk up when dogs, competition, and snow are mentioned!  

All that being said, I weave in little Iditarod tidbits every so often, especially with topics that tend to be a bit dry.  Teaching students to write with good description and vivid vocabulary can be like pulling teeth.  This past week, I pulled a little sled dog magic and got some great results!

Students practiced writing similes with photos of sled dogs; punctuation still needs some work…

I printed enough pictures of sled dogs to have one per student, then numbered them.  Each student had numbered his/her paper to match the total number of photos, skipping lines in-between.   After we had discussed adding similes into our writing to give readers a strong mental image, we began this activity.  Each student looked at the photo he/she received and wrote a simile caption for it next to its corresponding number.  After about one minute, we passed the pictures.  Another simile was added for the next picture by its number.  We continued passing pictures and writing similes.  Only ten rounds of passing were done to keep it exciting.

More descriptive similes…

Students then cut apart their numbered sheets into strips, one simile per strip.  They chose their favorite five.  We stapled up the photos and the corresponding similes onto a bulletin board.  The students were very engaged as we read over all the similes written, and I was able to give praise for their strong figurative language.  Each student had compared the photo of sled dogs to something in his/her bank of background knowledge.  It turned out to be just the motivation they needed to jumpstart their learning of descriptive writing!

Other Iditarod Teacher News!

One day left to enter an Iditarod centerpiece idea!  Each year at the Mushers’ Banquet, centerpieces grace the tables, created by school children around the world.  Does your class have an idea to submit?  Read over the Musher Banquet Table Top Contest and send in your idea!  It must be received by November 15.