“What are They Pulling?” Personal Narrative Writing

By now teachers are back in the swing of the school year. We are diving into curriculum, analyzing data, working with coaches and mentors, and planning with our teams. We have our routines established.  Our lives have returned to the rhythm of the school year. 

One thing we do here in Texas is a silent moment of reflection during morning announcements. This is the time each day that I look around my classroom at my kiddos and remind myself that they are what matters. Of all the things piled on my sled, the students I am entrusted with teaching are the most important thing I am pulling.

This month’s lesson plan and post theme is, “What are They Pulling?” We explored the idea of training last month.  I’m seeing lots of wonderful training videos being put up these days by mushers taking their dogs out for runs using various vehicles like jeeps, ATVs, small sleds, even bicycles, or just free running. The dogs are eager, and mushers are guiding them to build their skills and confidence on the trail.  Just like we are doing in the classroom!


Sled dogs run with a jeep full of happy Iditarod Summer Conference participants. Photo: Terrie Hanke

My students write personal narratives at this time of year.  I love this opportunity to reflect on the metaphor: our personal narratives express what we are carrying or pulling.  Ours and our students’ lives are shaped by a multitude of experiences worth writing about and sharing. Guiding my students to write effectively about these experiences is one of the things I enjoy most as a teacher. I can get to know the students better, and I can inspire them to write great stories. 

One of my favorite musher stories is Libby Riddles’ Storm Run, written at a middle grade level. Riddles was the first woman to win the Iditarod, and she took a chance on running through a terrible snowstorm to beat her competition.  My lesson plan highlights sections of her book as a mentor for students to write their own narratives. Younger students will benefit from the book Togo & Balto by Jodie Parachini, which is told from the point of view of the dogs! High school students might relate to Dallas Seavey’s memoir, Born to Mush because he talks about his experience in the Iditarod as a young adult.

Writing partners refer to the book “Togo & Balto” to inspire their personal narratives.                    Photo: K. Newmyer

I hope you enjoy the lesson plan, and that your sled is filled with meaningful work and enjoyment this month. Please contact me at emailtheteacher@iditarod.com to share your stories.