Iditarod: The First Ten Years – Personal Narrative

This month’s lesson prompt, based on the book “The First Ten Years”, is for pages 146 – 147, “1979: So cold that My Boot Liners Froze” by Phil Meyer, D.V.M.

On these pages, Dr. Phil Meyer, veteran Iditarod veterinarian, tells tales of cold, danger, and fun during his first year on the trail in 1979.  This narrative provides material for teaching literature reading and narrative writing skills.  This lesson shows how to use it as a model text for personal narrative planning.

grade level: 6 – 8

subject:  language arts

College and Career Readiness Standards practiced in this lesson:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3.A  Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3.B  Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3.C  Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3.D  Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3.E  Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

Students do a first read, marking the text for any questions about content or words they are unfamiliar with.  Then read the article aloud as a model of fluency; discuss any content or vocabulary questions students may have.

  • Students identify the narrator and determine the narrator’s point of view.
  • Students can create a story map of main events from when the narrator is first out on the trail to when he is off the trail at the end of the race.  Students write the events in one color of ink, then they add 1 or more details in a different color of ink.  Have students list vividly descriptive words from the narrative surrounding each event.  Finally beneath that, if you want students to practice writing dialogue, have them create and write in a third color a possible line of dialogue that would go with each event.
  • This narrative has good use of transitions.  (just before, meanwhile, however, as it turned out, when, as soon as, after) Have students explain how the transitions fit where they are – what has happened before and what is going to happen.
  • This narrative is mainly about a few single events in Dr. Meyer’s experience at the checkpoint of Iditarod; it doesn’t chronicle his whole trip.  Discuss the conclusion written on page 147.  Have students rewrite it to reflect more on the events at Iditarod.
  • Students brainstorm personal events in their lives that have been challenging, extreme, or unique experiences for use in their narratives.