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Keywords: writing, Iditarod, blogs
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Technology, Social Studies, Information Skills, Reading, Writing, Geography
Grades 4 through 8
School: Virginia Cross Elementary, Siler City, NC
Planned By: Traci Bellas
Original Author: Traci Bellas, Siler City
My fourth grade class participates in an interdisciplinary unit on the great race. The writing portion consists of students selecting a musher to follow, tracking his or her progress daily online, and writing a journal entry from the perspective of the musher. Each journal rubric is leveled according to student abilities but include details about the condition of their dogs, the weather, checkpoint, feelings, etc.
The students’ day begins by logging into a computer and going directly to the live Iditarod website. Students gather information about their musher’s position, current checkpoint, the distance from Anchorage or to Nome, current number of dogs on the team, and the weather. Students then synthesize this information to compose journal entries. These journal entries require higher level thinking skills because the students must create their own cause/effect relationships from the information they have gathered. For example, if there are blizzard conditions on the trail, students must use that information to determine the effects it would have on the teams. They must also add corresponding thought and feelings to their journal entries.
In addition to utilizing the Iditarod website, students use other technology resources to enhance our study. Students visit various musher kennel websites to gather information about their musher. This year I have added a classroom wiki where I can post discussion questions and have students respond. This has provided an authentic audience for student writers and provides students of all writing abilities the opportunity to respond to my questions and the comments of their peers. Personally, I have started my own blog about the unit. While every year is different, there are things about the unit each year I want to remember and improve. I have found that keeping a blog provides instant reflection, allows me to share my experience with my grade level and others who may share this interest, and gives me a space to keep a record of the failures and successes I experience with my students.
Materials: Internet Services, Whiteboards, Timeline, Worksheets, Printers, Projector Screens, Mobile Labs, Cause and Effect, Integrating Technology, Student Resources