Pourquoi Is That The Way It Is? Writing Creatively to Explain

Northern Lights Taken by Mike Kenney

Grades 2-6

Why do sled dogs howl?
Why do they love to run?
Why do mushers stand behind the sled?

All of these questions are great fodder for writing pourquoi stories – stories that explain why something is the way it is.

In this unit, students explore northern themed pourquoi tales. Inhabit Media, and Inuit owned publishing company, has some beautiful books that fit the bill for this perfectly:

  • The Legend of Lightning and Thunder by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt and Joe Rioux – An ancient Inuit tale, two orphans change the sky forever.
  • Painted Skies by Carolyn Mallory – A contemporary story that introduces readers to an Inuit legend about the Northern Lights.
  • The Walrus Who Escaped by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley – In this story, Walrus used to have beautiful spiraled tusks, until a run in with Raven changes them forever.
  • The Legend of the Fog by Qaunaq Mikkigak and Joanne Schwartz – Based on a centuries old traditional Inuit tale, a lone hunter gets into the struggle of his life when he encounters a tuurngaq, an evil spirit of the tundra.

Other mentor texts used include:

  • Berry Magic by Teri Sloat – This Yup’ik story explains how berries came to grow on the tundra.
  • The Sleeping Lady retold by Ann Dixon – This tale explains how The Sleeping Lady, or Mt. Susitna, came to lie along the Cook Inlet.
  • Aurora, A Tale of the Northern Lights and Northern Lights by Mindy Dwyer – Aurora is an original tale of how the Northern Lights came to dance across the sky, while the second provides shorter explanations from several cultures.

After exploring the mentor texts, students are challenged to create their own original pourquoi tale with a sled dog twist!

Iditarod Pourquoi Stories Unit Plan

Pourquoi Revising with a Lens Check sheet

fiction editing – cups copy