Iditarod Picture Dictionary
Students explore the exciting dogsled race across Alaska while creating a picture dictionary of key Iditarod terms.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
K-2 students are introduced to the Iditarod and create a picture dictionary of key Iditarod terms.
- Learn about the Iditarod and related terms through stories and articles
- Review photographs of mushers and sled dogs
- Use a dictionary, encyclopedia, and online resources to gather information
- Draw pictures to illustrate Iditarod terms
- Write one-line captions to accompany pictures
- Iditatrod: Race Across Alaska Activities
- brass fasteners or report holders
- clear contact paper
- computer(s) with Internet access
- construction paper
- crayons or markers
- hole punch
- Idea Web (PDF)
- Iditarod books
- student-researched dictionaries, library books, or online sources with musher terminology
- U.S. map with Alaska clearly visible
- writing paper
- optional: LCD or overhead projector to display articles and Idea Web
Set Up and Prepare
- Display selected Iditarod books.
- Post a U.S. map on a wall.
- NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print articles referenced in this lesson and make transparency copies to post on an overhead projector.
Step 1: Read aloud one of the selected Iditarod picture books with your class. As you read, show pictures of sled dogs, mushers, etc.
Step 2: Ask students what they know about the Iditarod, or what words come to mind. Record their responses on the Idea Web. Start with the word "Iditarod" in the center and record responses related to Iditarod and subsequent words. Contribute to the Idea Web by telling students that the Iditarod is the world's longest sled dog race (over 1,000 miles) and that it takes place in Alaska.
Step 3: Look at the U.S. map and have a volunteer identify Alaska. Point out how far north it is. Ask students what they think the weather must be like so far north.
Step 4: Visit the article All About Alaska with students. Read it aloud. Then, encourage students to share what they now know about Alaska (e.g. cold, icy, north, etc). Expand on your Idea Web, adding this information.
Step 5: Tell students that as they learn more about the Iditarod, they will continue to add words and ideas to the Idea Web. After completing the Web, they will work together to create an Iditarod Picture Dictionary.
Step 1: Read the article Historic Iditarod aloud. Emphasize and define the bolded words (serum and commemoration) and have students identify other key concepts from this article to add to the Idea Web such as: Nome, annually, and prize.
Step 2: Repeat Step 1 with each of the following articles or sets of articles over the next couple of days:
- Young Mushers (key words may include: musher, champion, Anchorage, handler, and checkpoints)
- Junior Iditarod (key words may include: Junior Iditarod, and tradition)
- Four Articles from A Dog's Life (key words may include: huskies, lead dogs, tripe, harness, dehydration, veterinarians, and dog team)
Step 1: Review the Idea Web with students. Invite volunteers to read aloud the words you've recorded.
Step 2: Organize students into small groups and assign each group at least three terms from the Idea Web. Distribute drawing and writing materials to each group. Tell students that they are going to create pages for an Iditarod Picture Dictionary by drawing pictures and writing brief definitions for each of their words.
Step 3: With your help and guidance, have students use dictionaries, encyclopedias, Iditarod books, library sources, and online sources to research meanings and pictures of their assigned terms.
Step 4: Have students draw the pictures of their words, one per sheet of construction paper. Help them write accompanying definitions.
Step 5: Groups should work together to organize their completed pages in alphabetical order and create a cover for their Iditarod Picture Dictionary.
Step 6: Attach the pages with brass fasteners. Cover the Iditarod Picture Dictionary with clear contact paper on the front and back covers.
- Have students create an Iditarod Alphabet. Assign each student a letter and have her use Iditarod resources to find one word for that letter (e.g., A is for Alaska, H is for Husky, M is for Musher, etc.). Students can decorate their letter and associated word to display on a classroom bulletin board.
- Get up close and personal with sled dogs. Find out more about malamutes or huskies by inviting an owner of this breed to the classroom along with his dog.
Supporting All Learners
Iditarod: Race Across Alaska addresses national standards across the curriculum as follows:
National Council for Geographic Education
- use maps and other geographic representations, to acquire, process, and report information
- know and understand the physical and human characteristics of places
- know and understand that culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions
- know and understand characteristics, distributions, and complexity of the earth's cultural mosaics
- know and understand how human actions modify the physical environment
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- select and uses appropriate instruments and technology to measure in real-world situations
- develop fluency in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers
- develop and use strategies to estimate the results of whole-number computations and to judge the reasonableness of such results
- develop and use strategies to estimate the results of rational-number computations and judge the reasonableness of the results
International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information
- adjust spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, and vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes
- use a variety of technological and informational resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge
- develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles
- use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information)
National Science Teachers Association:
- motions and forces
- transfer of energy
- organisms and their environments
- diversity and adaptations of organisms
Earth and Space Science
- properties of earth's materials
Science in Personal and Social Perspective
- changes in environment
- science and technology in local challenges
- populations, resources, and environments
- natural hazards
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- understand multiple perspectives that derive from different cultural vantage points
- compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions
Time, Continuity, & Change
- read and construct simple timelines; identify examples of change; recognize examples of cause and effect relationships
- compare and contrast different stories and accounts about past events, people, places, or situations identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past
- identify and uses various sources for reconstructing the past
- demonstrate an understanding that people in different times and places view the world differently
People, Places, and Environments
- demonstrate an understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape
- interpret, use, and distinguish various representations of the earth, such as maps, globes, and photographs
- estimate distances and calculates scale
- locate and distinguish among varying landforms and geographic features
- examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment
- describe ways that historical events have been influenced by, and have influenced, physical and human geographic factors in local, regional, national and global settings
Technology Foundation Standards:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- use technology tools to process data and report results
- employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world
Use this Project Rubric: Iditarod Picture Dictionary to assess students' proficiency with this activity. Evaluate whether students' skills are improving or where they may need additional support or instruction.