Iditarod -- Race Across Alaska
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Lesson 1: Grades K–2
Lesson 2: Grades 3–8
Lesson 3: Grades 4–8
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Teacher's Guide

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Lesson 1: Iditarod Picture Dictionary

Lesson Introduction
K-2 students are introduced to the Iditarod and create a picture dictionary of key Iditarod terms.

Grade Level: K–2

5 days

Student Objectives
Students will:

  • 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


  • brass fasteners or report holders
  • clear contact paper
  • computer(s) with Internet access
  • construction paper
  • crayons or markers
  • hole punch
  • Idea Web graphic organizer (PDF)
  • Iditarod books (see Recommended 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


  • Display selected Iditarod books (see Recommended 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.

Day 1
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.

Days 2-3
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)
Top Mushers (key words may include: runner-up, trophy, training, blizzards, moose, and Bering Sea)

Days 4-5
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.

Assessment & Evaluation
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.

Lesson Extensions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.