Iditarod Newspaper

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BSSD Standards Addressed


Focus: Outlining/Summarizing and organizing relevant and irrelevant information

Focus: Understanding the cultural and historical influences of the Iditarod, and the impact it had on Alaska as a whole; comprehending text as a resource and understanding its role as a way to communicate and document


Focus: Researching and reporting

Focus: Writing for different styles and audiences


One Full 8-9 Week Quarter

Materials Needed

The Cruelest Miles by Gay & Laney Salibury


Other Optional Readings:

Murder on the Iditarod Trail by Sue Henry


Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen


Race Across Alaska by Libby Riddles and Tim Jones


The Race to Nome by Kenneth A. Ungermann



Students will design and create a newspaper dedicated to the Iditarod. It will include reports on the history of the race, including the sport and use of dog sledding, the origin of the race, the cultural context, and the impact it has on Alaska.

Newspaper Article Sections


World: Who knows about the Iditarod throughout the world, and why are they interested in it? Interviews with people from other countries who are in town visiting would be a great resource and are highly recommended.

Nation: Dispel common myths held by people from other parts of the country about both the Iditarod and Alaska in general.

State: Discuss the logistics of putting the Iditarod together. This would include trail maintenance, putting up markers, the trailblazer, the start and end of the race, and who takes care of all these things. What kind of work and funding goes on behind the scenes of the actual race?

Local: What happens in Unalakleet during and as a result of the Iditarod? How does it impact the village?

Sports: Report on the race and the status of the racers and their dogs.

Business: What are the costs of joining and running the race? How does one prepare not only mentally and physically, but also fiscally for this endeavor?

History: What does the Iditarod represent? Talk about the serum run to Nome in 1925.

Life: Discuss the cultural context/importance of dog sledding in Alaska.

Block 3 Article Assignment

Block 2 Article Assignment

Block 1 Article Assignment

Anticipatory Set

Begin by looking at all of the current Iditarod racers. Students will probably be familiar with who is running, and may already have favorites. Begin by asking what they know about the origins of the race, who was involved, etc.

Look at original newspaper clippings from the time. Begin talking about both the history of the Iditarod, the significance of the race today, and why people still run it. Also discuss the difference between a non-fiction story and a news article.

Introduce the book and the objectives.


Learning to Write a News Article

1. Students will learn the purpose for the format of a newspaper article and will be able to model this format using a story of their own. The following portions are from the ReadWriteThink Lesson Plan site.

2. Explain the final outcome of the unit: A newspaper which covers the Iditarod in every facet.

Independent Reading/Writing Practice

3. Introduce the book, The Cruelest Miles.

4. As students read the book, they will each be assigned a chapter to outline and summarize.

Guided Reading Questions:

File:CruelestMiles Ch1.doc

File:CruelestMiles Ch3.doc

For Chapter 4, students drew a picture that had to include 5 details from the text, which they had to explain, and they also had to use color. This is practice for the L7 EOL.

File:CruelestMiles Ch5.doc

File:CruelestMiles Ch6.doc

For Chapter 7, students are required to begin asking their own questions about the text. To explain the art of questioning, as per their standards (6.09 and 7.04 more specifically), I use Bloom's Taxonomy as an outline.

  1. Knowledge asks questions about the facts and events of the text. At this level you are summarizing the events of a text.
  2. Comprehension is a translation or interpretation of the text. At this level, you are predicting what will happen if the current situation continues.
  3. Application asks students to apply the given situations to real life
  4. Analysis is the point where students look at each part of the story and interpret the significance of it in the whole picture. It also asks you to identify main ideas and themes.
  5. Synthesis is where all of the parts come together to form a pattern. It asks us to form solutions to current problems.
  6. Evaluation judges not only the quality of the text, but the fallacies, consistencies, inconsistencies, and logic of the solution offered in the text.

File:CruelestMiles Ch7.doc

File:CruelestMiles Ch8.doc

File:CruelestMiles Ch9.doc

File:CruelestMiles Ch11.doc

Instruction for the Newspaper

5. As the Iditarod draws closer, begin preparing your students to create a final newspaper product. This would include the following:

Evaluation/ Rubric

Have the class design a rubric together to allow them to take ownership of their work and evaluation. Some non-negotiables might include:

Use this website to help you and your class create your rubric:


Students will be evaluated on their ability to summarize in outline form, their accuracy in their newspaper articles, and by the 6-traits rubric. Reading and writing standards will both be assessed through their articles.

Teacher Notes

The students of Frank A. Degnan High School in Unalakleet, AK have created a first-class newspaper that, during the 2009 Iditarod, was published for the public to read, able to be enjoyed by visitors from around the globe.









This lesson was designed at the Iditarod Working Weekend, November 8-9, 2008.

Class Wikis:

Block 1

Block 2

Block 3


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