Alaskan Stories – Read & Retold

Activity Overview: 

Students have been reading Alaskan stories in their SRA Basal Readers and literature books. The literature books are written on Alaska settings, names of rivers, mountains, land, and climate, and culture. After reading the stories and participating in various activities, the students create a couple of PowerPoint slide presentations, entitled, “Balto, the Wonder Dog” and “Alaskan Wilderness.” The students participate in group discussions, writing or doing hands-on activities in retelling stories and facts they learn on Eskimos, Alaska history, Arctic Animals, dogsledding, Iditarod Dogsled Racing. “Balto, and the Great Race” drew the attention of students immediately because they relate Balto to their own dogs and became interested in dogsledding as a new sport. Students, also, enjoy reading fictional literature books, such as “Alaska Three Pigs”, “Eagle Boy”, “Stone Fox”, and others.

The students will practice reading and retelling stories by creating and writing multi-media stories to increase their interest in reading and writing skills. 

The students will use a variety of technology resources and materials to research topics on Alaska, to participate on-line interactive activities, to communicate on-line with experts on Alaska topics or interest. 

The students will plan and develop PowerPoint Slides on Alaskan stories read and learn to present their presentations to an audience. 

Students have been reading Alaskan stories in their SRA Basal Readers and literature books.  The literature books are written on Alaska settings, names of rivers, mountains, land, and climate, and culture.  After reading the stories and participating in various activities, the students created a couple of PowerPoint slide presentations, entitled, “Balto, the Wonder Dog” and “Alaskan Wilderness.”  The students have been participating in group discussions, writing or doing hands-on activities in retelling stories and facts they have learned on Eskimos, Alaska history, Arctic Animals, dogsledding, Iditarod Dogsled Racing.  “Balto, and the Great Race” drew the attention of my students immediately because they related Balto to their own dogs and became interested in dogsledding as a new sport.  Students, also, enjoyed reading fictional literature books, such as “Alaska Three Pigs”, “Eagle Boy”, “Stone Fox”, and others.

(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)


Curriculum Standards

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators

Introduction:  Where is Alaska located on the globe?  Students outline USA, Canada, & Alaska on a large orange globe with markers.

Social Studies III: Early Grades b


Inspiration educational software: brainstorming and idea mapping: What we know about Alaska?

What we would like to know about Alaska?

English Language Arts: 3

Grades 3-5: 8

View a video tape on Alaska: “MS Statendam – Alaska 1997”

Social Studies III: Early Grades f, g

Grades 3-5: 8

Researching & gathering information on Alaska, using search engines./Teacher writes the questions for the students to research and answer with the Web site addresses given.

English Language Arts: 7, 8

Grades 3-5: 6

Group discussions on information we gathered and developed an outline on Alaska Facts on the Word Processor/Students wrote/draw in their journals./ Read two books:  “Sea to Shining Sea-Alaska” & “Enchantment of America-Alaska”

English Language Arts: 12

Grades 3-5: 1, 8

View video on “Balto” and read two books:  “Balto and the Great Race” & “The Bravest Dog Ever-The True Story of Balto”/

Students summarized the stories in their journals.

English Language Arts: 1, 8

Grades 3-5: 8

Students read in their SRA Basal Readers: Eskimo, Glaciers, Alaska, Arctic Animals & fictional stories.

English Language Arts: 1


Researching on the Internet about Eskimos/Teacher website on lesson plans: Alaska on an Eskimo-Students used a digital camera for their faces on the Eskimo./Wrote on Eskimo in their journals.

English Language Arts: 8, 9

Grades 3-5: 5, 7

Students reading Alaska stories/Retelling their stories on the Word Processor.

English Language Arts: 1, 3, 5

Grades 3-5: 1, 8

Teacher read an article about a teen musher/students e-mail her & wrote letters on the Word Processor to ask questions about her dogs and racing in the Junior Iditarod 2003/Teen musher & 23 dogs visited our school & gave a dogsledding demonstration.

English Language Arts: 5, 6, 8

Grades 3-5: 7, 8

Students created a totem pole & retold their stories by drawings/Research totem poles in the search engines and shared with the group.

English Language Arts: 7, 8, 9

Grades 3-5: 6

Students created on-line word search puzzles on Alaska; created a ‘Alaska Fact’ Gameboard-Develop questions & answers.

English Language Arts: 5

Grades 3-5: 7

Students develop PowerPoint slides on their Alaska Facts & stories/Balto/Teen Musher/Wrote Diamond Poems/Insert Clip Art; Photos; Scan pictures; Disk

English Language Arts: 5, 6, 12

Grades 3-5: 1, 5, 8

Read “Stone Fox” as a group/Students researching questions given to them by the teacher with the website address about dogsledding

English Language Arts: 1, 3, 8

Grades 3-5: 6

View a video: “Really Wild Animals” about Arctic Animals/Inspiration software: Brainstorming and idea mapping on Arctic/Research on the internet – Arctic

English Language Arts: 8

Grades 3-5: 1, 6, 8

Students develop a PowerPoint slide presentation on Arctic/Insert Clip Art; Photos; Scan their drawings of Arctic

English Language Arts: 5, 6, 12

Grades 3-5: 1, 5, 8

Students made Alaska snacks from snow activities website & book-“Alaska Kidsnacks”

English Language Arts: 8

Grades 3-5: 7

Survival Story:  Live in Nome, Alaska –Dogsledding is your sport. One day I decided to take the six-team dogs for exercise.  I didn’t realize that soon a winter storm was heading our way.  We got lost on the trail.

How will we survive?

English Language Arts: 6, 11, 12

Grades: 3-5: 1

Microsoft Office. Microsoft.  Available:

Inspiration. Inspiration Software, Inc. Available:

Co-Writer (Word Prediction)/Write Outloud. Don Johnston. Available:

Kurzweil 3000-Scan/Read. Lernout & Hauspie. Available:

AlphaSmart. Intelligent Peripheral Devices, Inc. Available:

Laser Pointer Pen – Radio Shack Store.  Available:

PC Computers. Gateway.

Compaq- PC Computer; PowerPC-Macintosh. Available:

Digital Camera (Sony-MVC-FD71) Available:

Camera for taking pictures & developing the pictures on a disk or CD-ROM

Hewlett Packard ScanJet 5300C. Hewlett Packard.  Available:

Overhead-3M 9700. 3M. Available:

LC Panel-Polaroid - Polaview 3000.  Available:

SmartBoard. Smart Technologies Inc. Available:

Jaz Drive. Iomega Corporation. Available:

Balto, (1996). MCA Universal, Home Video, Inc.

Really, Wild Animals, Polar Prowl, (1994).  National Geographic Kids Video.

Alaska, 1997-MS Statendam, SeaVid Productions, P.O. Box 2785, La Jolla, CA 92038   

Bugni, A. (1999). Moose Racks, Bear Tracks, and Other.Alaska Kidsnacks.  PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Carpenter, A. (1965). Enchantment of America Alaska. Childrens Press: Chicago.

Cartwright, S. (1990). Alaska’s Three Bears.  PAWS IV. Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Cohlene, T.(1990). Ka-ha-si and the Loon (An Eskimo Legend).The Rourke Corp.:

Vero Beach.

Fradin, D. (1994). Sea to Shining Sea.Alaska. Children’s Press: Danbury.

Gardiner, J. (1980). Stone Fox.  HarperTrophy. A division of HarperCollinsPublishers: New York.

George, J. (1994). Julie.  HarperCollins Children’s Books: New York.

George, J. (1972). Julie of the Wolves.  HarperCollins Children’s Books: New York.

Gill, S. (1987). The Alaska Mother Goose. PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Gill, S. (1997). Count Alaska’s Colors. PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books. Seattle.

Gill, S. (1984). Kiana’s Iditarod. PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books, Seattle.

Gill, S. (1988). Thunderfeet Alaska’s Dinosaurs. PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Guenther, J. (2000). Turnagain Ptarmigan!  Where Did You Go? Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Kimmel, E. (1999).  Balto and the Great Race.Random House: New York. 

Kreeger, C. (1978).  Alaska-ABC Book.  PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Laverde, A. (2000). Alaska’s Three Pigs. Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Legendre, P. (1994). Arctic Animals (Draw). Educational Insights, Inc. Website:

Riddles, L. (1989). Danger the Dog Yard Cat. PAWS IV.Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Standiford, N. (1989). The Bravest Dog Ever-The True Story of Balto. Random House: New York.

Sullivan, D. (1995). Multicultural Education Series-Discovering Alaska. Hayes School Publishing Co.: Pittsburgh

Vaughan, R. (2000). Eagle Boy. Sasquatch Books: Seattle.

Web sites:

Florida Geographic Alliance (2000). Lesson Plans from the 1992 Geography Academy for teachers.  Alaska (mini-unit.)  Available:

1.2 million downloadable images (2000).  Subscription $29.95 for 1 year. Available:

Knowledge Network Explorer (1995-2000).  Filamentality.Pacific Bell. Available:   

Filamentality 2.0; Teacher creates links for the topic-Have Your Own HomePage!

Alaska Adventures-(Created Internet Hotlist for the Alaska Unit)
Available: –Created by Vanderpool from Filamentality 2.0

Official Web site for the State of Alaska (2001).  Available:

Iditarod Official Site of the Last Great Race (2001).  Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc.
Available: - Iditarod Dog Sled Race 

Scholastic (1996-2001).Scholastic Inc.  Available: – Be an Iditarod Reporter

Students choose a topic to write on
Sleddog (2000). Sleddog Central. Forums/Topics  Available: – Chat & find new and interesting things about dog sledding

DiscoverySchool (2000).  Puzzlemaker.  Available: - Creating Puzzles on the Topic

Yahooligans! (2001).Yahoo! Inc.  Available: - The Web Guide for Kids

AskJeeves (1996-2001).  Available: - Have a question?  Just type in and click ask

Sled dogs:  An Alaskan Epic. PBS  Available:

Snow Activities (2001).  Snow Food.  Available:

Frosty Readers (2001). Patricia Knox and Susan Silverman. Available: Read stories and poems written by students & participate in art and writing activities on their own

Teacher Observations:  In a group or partner activities, how well are the students  planning, preparing or problem-solving together; how effectively are the students researching, gathering, and applying technology resources, materials, and using technology equipment.

PowerPoint Rubric form:  Teacher created a 3-Point Rubric for self-evaluation by the students in three areas: Overall Presentations, Story Retelling by Paraphrasing, and Inserting an Image (clip art; digital camera; scanner; floppy disk)

Writing Activities:  Journal Writing on a given sentence/topic, Poetry Writings, Retelling a story, Writing a Paragraph or a page reflecting on what they have learned or experienced or how they would do it differently.

Reading Skills:  Using Running Records for evaluating oral reading and reading skills.

Mary Vanderpool, Lakeland Elementary, Coldwater, or,

In a resource room setting, students are practicing reading skills & reading materials, brainstorming & outlining the main ideas/supporting details of what they read or developing a story & character web mapping daily.  Students are also practicing writing skills, retelling stories, writing book reports, writing on a topic, or reflecting on what they have learned or experienced.

In September & October, the teacher and students gathered resources, books, videos, web site research and other materials on the Alaska theme.  In November and December, students were involved in reading and retelling Alaskan stories and doing related classroom activities.  In January and February, the students planned and developed their PowerPoint Slides on retelling Alaskan stories, poetry writings, a teen musher dogsledding presentation at our school in February and studying dogsledding as a sport.  Then, the students practiced presenting their multi-media stories for an audience in February.

This is the first time the students had created PowerPoint slides and presented to an audience.  In the past, the teacher has created PowerPoint slides for instructing the students, presenting at a workshop, and presenting at a conference.

Students have been very excited and learned a lot about creating and presenting a PowerPoint slide presentation.  In addition, the students were taking the initiative in researching materials and searching on the Internet.  A couple of the students brought in videos, entitled, “Balto” and “Really Wild Animals-Polar Prowl” to view for the class.  Another student researched facts on Alaska using an electronic encyclopedia CD-Rom at home.  Some of the students were locating and checking out books on Alaska and Balto in the library and taking accelerated reader’s tests on the computer.  One student in rewrote the story of Balto to plan for his slides.  Another student who usually is not actively involved became very actively involved in presenting his slides to the audience.  In conclusion, their motivation, self-esteem, and self-confidence have increased from this experience.  In the future students will know how to create multi-media reports in their general education setting as well.

Technology Resources: 
I selected this activity which allowed the students to combine their literature with a PowerPoint presentation, because it was simple to learn, easy to instruct, fun to create, easy to develop in a short time, provided an opportunity for group interaction, easy to create a hyperlink, and promoted creativity and thinking skills.

Giving the students the experience in developing and creating a PowerPoint slide presentation, increased the students’ abilities to complete an assignment or project in their general education setting instead of paper/pencil task.  Secondly, the students would be able to share their knowledge on a topic/subject without being concerned about spelling and grammar, which causes them not to express themselves well on paper.  Lastly, the students can be proud of their work and feel successful. 

Teaching Strategy: 
Students have different abilities and learning styles for learning and recalling information.  Students learn in small sequential steps, repetition, and require structured the lessons to build knowledge.  

Using the technology resources, materials, and the PowerPoint software application, a  presentation is created for all the multi-sensory channels for students who have difficulties in learning. Students can learn best by visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic learning experiences.  It also provides an opportunity for group and peer interaction and making group decisions in their final activity.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity 
(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.) 

Principles of Learning:
The students were actively involved in the various activities. They learn by doing and gain knowledge by taking an active role. They often received Frequent Feedback from the teacher to guide them in the activities.  Students were less frustrated in completing a task and knew what they needed to do next.  One way the students received Direct Experience is when the teen musher who visited our school permitted the students to handle the dogs and gave them directions how to care for the dogs, keeping the dogs calm before racing.  The students, also, were always in an Enjoyable Setting and felt comfortable in sharing their thoughts, suggestions and ideas.

Information Processing:
In Presearch the group was asked to share what they knew about Alaska and what they wanted to know about Alaska.  The students shared their experiences on ice fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, snowboarding and other snow activities.  Then three students were given a website address and questions to answer on dogsledding to Search on the Internet while the rest of the group were reading, “Stone Fox.”  When they were finished, the students shared their answers and more about dogsledding to the group.  For this activity to be successful one student was selected because of his higher reading ability to assist the other students in reading on the web site.

Content Standards: 
In Language Arts students were provided with many opportunities to read and retell their stories, e-mail messages, Internet researches on various topics of interest and shared with the group.  In addition students participated in many writing activities to increase their vocabulary words and to improve their writing skills.  With the assistance of technology resources and equipment, the students were proud of their work and felt successful.

Tenets of Democracy: 
The students interacted well with each other on different activities.  At times they shared the leadership role in the Decision Making process and shared how to communicate effectively in getting the job done.  An example of this, during the PowerPoint presentation, a couple of the students discussed how to take turns in speaking and operating the SmartBoard and computer to the audience.

Teacher Knowledge and Behavior: 
Lessons and activities were planned on the students’ abilities, interests and needs.  Knowing where the students’ strengths are, the teacher encourages the students to try their best and to believe in themselves.  The room atmosphere needs to be a comfortable setting and enrich with many opportunities for learning.

The students were given the chance to Operate Equipment all the time during instruction and activity.  The teacher or another student gave assistance when needed.  As a result the student felt confident in exploring on his own.

Student Characteristics: 
Students who have been identified as learning disabled have difficulties in processing and recalling detail information and reading comprehension.  Students may also have difficulties in handwriting, forming letters correctly, writing in cursive, spelling words correctly, and using the proper grammar.  This causes them not to be creative when demonstrating their knowledge on the subject.  Further, the students require structure for ideas and facts to learn how to organize and prioritize information.  By using technology resources and materials, their motivation to complete a task is increased by successful experiences.

Evolution of the Activity: 
Completing the PowerPoint slide presentations is the result of researching on the Internet, gathering resources, communicating on-line with a teen musher on dogsledding, participating on classroom activities, creating web mapping, viewing videos, outlining facts on Alaska, and reading and retelling Alaskan stories.  Therefore, the PowerPoint slide presentations summarize and compile all of the previous activities completed.  It demonstrates what the students have gained in knowledge and their experiences in language arts and technology.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology