Category Archives: Instructional Strategies

Using “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as a template

Grades 4 through 6 have been learning how to use Microsoft Word by studying Robert Frost’s famous poem in a table format, one stanza per cell with observations and comments in the right-hand column.

Most students have to finish the project for homework, but some do not have access to Microsoft Word at home. The solution for those students is simply to copy and paste their content into ASD Google Docs.

Once the students have finished the analytical steps, they have to write their own version. Here’s a line-by-line example.


IditaType™ Folders: Organizing and Using Hard-Copy Documents

The Documents Folders

Musher’s Folder

  1. Team Member Positions & Dog Names
  2. Photos of Team Member Masks & Names
  3. Checkpoints Table
  4. Checkpoint Research Assignments
  5. Checkpoint Research
  6. Musher’s Daily Numbers

Trail Log Folder

  1. Checkpoint Table
  2. Daily Trail Log

Daily Numbers Folder

  1. Checkpoint Table
  2. Daily Trail Numbers

How & Why

  1. Catalyzing Teamwork
  2. Organizing Chaos
  3. Minimizing Copy-Paste
  4. Reinforcing Accountability

Modifications for 3rd Grade

Due to the complexity of some of the team tasks, 3rd Grade requirements are open to adjustment:

  • No pilot positions are necessary unless someone has already mastered take-offs and landings.
  • Lead Dogs may not need to use the measuring tool in Google Earth to pinpoint exact trail position. We’ll see….kids are amazing, and I don’t want to cut them short on one of the best features of the race.
  • Hard-copy Trail Log completion before digital Trail Log requirement: I’ll see how they do on this. Like I said, if I lower the bar, they will certainly underperform.

Followup 2/10/17

I went through all of the pre-race instruction yesterday with the 3rd graders.  Lead Dogs are good with being able to pin the daily location. We will do the full-blown program with them sans pilots.

Determining Winner by Shortest Elapsed Time to Nome

The winner of the real Iditarod Sled Dog Race is the first team to Nome. Since each team leaves the starting line at different times, the staggered start is equalized by corrections elsewhere on the trail.

The IditaType™ Race teams likewise do not start at the same time; they don’t even start on the same day. Additionally, due to holidays and other schedule disruptions, grade levels may not have the same number of class meeting each week.

To equalize the differences, the Race Marshall will log actual time spent working by each team with the Racing Time Google sheet shown above.  In this way, the shortest elapsed time working among all the grade levels will determine the first team to Nome.

Easy Implementation of IditaType™

Your most efficient implementation of this project is for me to provide all the daily trail positions for your typing test data.

The project is scalable, so teachers can start with the basics; the 14 one-minute typing tests through Teachers create an account (free), then add their students to the class.

Teachers establish minimum accuracy standards. Students have to have 14 tests at or above the standard. I use 90% accuracy for my 3rd through 6th grade classes.

Students do all the tests in one class session. Teachers export the results from the Reports page and email the file to me.  I’ll run the data through my macros and build two evenly matched teams, then turn their tests into 14 days of Iditarod trail progress. I’ll return the results as PDF’s and they can take it from there, as much as they are comfortable with. I’ll charge a nominal fee, say a buck per student.

Pre-Race Dog Trading

I allowed two teams to swap one wheel dog after being approached by a student with the request due to a personality conflict with the musher.  It was OK’d by both mushers, but objected to by the other wheel dog.

After crunching the numbers, it turned out that the deal would make the two teams more evenly matched, so by a meeting with all parties involved, I informed the reluctant fellow that he’d been traded.  In the end, he was impressed that his numbers made such a big difference to the new team.

IditaType™ Implementation Overview



  • Rationale
  • Prerequisite Teacher Skills
  • Prerequisite Student Skills

Typing Test Data

  • Online Typing Site
  • Number of Tests
  • Length of Tests
  • Minimum Accuracy

Using Typing Test Data

  • Exporting Data
  • Preparing Data
  • Transposing Data

Creating Matched Teams

  • Microsoft Excel “Teams” Workbook
  • Using Macros to Populate Teams
  • Paste-Linked Data

Determining Rate of Progress on the Trail

  • The Rate Sheet
  • Lowest Number of Words to Nome
  • Setting the Rate

Team Rankings

  • Communicating Test and Team Outcomes to Students
  • Multi-grade Racing
  • Potential Winners
  • Teamwork Wins

Race Preparation

  • Masks and Collars
  • Dog Names
  • Musher Selection
  • Positions and Responsibilities
    • Musher
    • Lead Dog
    • Swing Dogs
    • Team Dogs
    • Wheel Dogs
    • Pilots
  • The Trail Log
  • Pilot Testing and Training
  • The Pilot Map
  • The Pilot Log Book
  • Checkpoint Research
  • Trail Research
  • Weather Research
  • Workstation Assignments
  • The Musher’s Workbook
  • The Trail Time and Resting Time Calculator
  • Practicing Team Location Plotting
  • Practicing Race Day Procedures

Race Day Procedures

  • Masks and Collars
  • Mushing Position
  • Race Marshall Briefing
  • Release of Data
  • Hard Copy Trail Log Completion
  • Return to Mushing Position
  • Race Marshal Verification
  • Release of Online Trail Log
  • Completion of Team Responsibilities
  • Return to Mushing Position for Verification of Online Trail Log and Map
  • Release of Additional Days’ Data as time allows
  • 5 Minute Debriefing at close of each class session


  • Prizes


  • Adding Photos and Videos to the Race Map
  • Comparing IditaType with actual Iditarod race
  • Modifying IditaRead

Online Resources

  • Teacher on the Trail
  • Weather
  • Pilot Resources
  • Online Typing Sites
  • Cooperative Learning
  • The Official Iditarod Photographer