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The Iditarod Race Compared with the Movie, Iron Will

Lesson Plan

The Iditarod Race Compared with the Movie, Iron Will

Grade Levels

7th Grade

Course, Subject

Geography, English Language Arts
Related Academic Standards


  • Compare – place together characters, situations, or ideas to show common and/or differing features.
  • Nonfiction – a genre of writing that focuses on real, true information about a situation, event, or person.
  • Iditarod –   1) a sled dog race that takes place in Alaska every March.

                            2) an Athabaskan Indian word meaning a distant or far off place.

                            3) a ghost town in Alaska.

  • Checkpoint – various places along the race route at which mushers must stop and check-in before moving along.
  • Musher – the person driving a sled that cares for and calls commands to the team of dogs.
  • Maximum – the highest number or amount allowed.
  • Minimum – the lowest number or amount allowed.


Students will research and record information about both the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the movie, Iron Will, in order to write a compare and contrast essay between the two races.

Lesson Essential Question(s)

  • How does a writer create successful informational pieces which compare and contrast two objects?
  • How do we use information gained through research to expand knowledge?
  • How do research skills make us lifelong learners?


7 class periods


  • Computer with Internet access for each student
  • Printer
  • LCD projector
  • Iron Will movie
  • Iditarod Scavenger Hunt worksheet
  • United States Atlas
  • green and blue colored pencils

Suggested Instructional Strategies


Students will be able to write a compare and contrast essay. This type of text structure and organization is used frequently on standardized tests.



Bring in live dogs for a sledding demonstration or watch a video (Idita-Rock-N-Roll) on sledding to help hook and hold students’ attention throughout the lesson activities.



Students will research a real dog sled race before examining a fictional one through the movie, Iron Will, so they understand that races actually do take place in various locations around the world. This will equip them with the necessary prior knowledge to successfully complete the lesson.



Through discussion, students will be formatively assessed after completing research and a graphic organizer. At that point, they will need to reflect on and revisit their gathered information in order to begin transferring it into essay form. Revising and rethinking are a necessary part of the writing process.



Students will use written language to express their understanding by writing a compare and contrast essay. The essay rubric should be distributed to students prior to writing so that they know the requirements and can self-evaluate as they work through the revising and editing stages of the writing process.



Students will view the Comparison and Contrast Guide while the teacher reads the information aloud. A notes sheet will be available for students to record important information. Also, the presentation will be available to students online, so they may review the information whenever needed. They will be working in large groups and individually. Having the rubric prior to completing each activity will allow for more student-centered work. As a benefit to those students that may require intervention, the teacher will be free to work with them individually as other students work on the computers.


H.E.A.T. Intensity Level 4

  • H - Student learning/questioning at application level
  • E - Students given options to solve a problem; collaborate with others
  • A - The learning experience provides extensive real world relevance, but does not apply the learning to a real world situation
  • T - Technology use is somewhat connected to task completion involving one or more applications



This lesson is organized in a sequential order, with students being made aware of what each step will be. The teacher will introduce each concept and be sure that each student understands the directions. Then students will be able to work independently, with the teacher available for guidance.


Instructional Procedures

DAY 1-2

Begin by telling students that they will be researching and then writing a compare and contrast essay about The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the race in the movie Iron Will. Details will be explained throughout each step of the activity. 

A. This activity will take approximately ½ a class period to complete.

Students will be introduced to informational writing in the form of a compare and contrast essay. In order to learn what it means to compare and contrast, the methods of writing this type of essay will be discussed with students through the use of notes. The teacher will use an online resource, presenting it on an LCD projector, on individual student computers, or through a combination of both. The notes could be copied down by students, printed in a handout, or simply bookmarked on the computer for easy future access. This “Comparison and Contrast Guide” offers information about what a comparison essay is and also about the various ways in which they can be organized. Notes can be accessed at:

Once the notes are completed and the teacher has ensured through questioning that all students understand the specifics of a comparison essay, the students should begin researching their first topic: The Iditarod.

B. Begin this activity during the last ½ of class on day 1 and continue through day 2.

Students will need Internet access and should go to the Iditarod site at to gather facts. Students should be given a scavenger hunt to be used for research. The scavenger hunt can be found here: Iditarod Scavenger Hunt worksheet.pdf. It takes students through nonfiction material about the Iditarod’s history, rules, and race legends. This information will set a basis for a later comparison between the Iditarod and the race in Iron Will.


DAY 3-4

A. This activity will take approximately 2 class periods to complete.

Students will be watching the movie, Iron Will, in order to find similarities and differences between the sled dog race in the movie and the Iditarod race. Students will need computers, as they will be using an interactive graphic organizer to take notes during the movie. This “Interactive Venn Diagram” is available at:

To make sure students know what is expected of them in regards to the graphic organizer, the teacher should distribute a “Venn Diagram Rubric” prior to beginning the movie. The rubric can be accessed at:

While students are working on the interactive throughout the movie, the teacher should be checking with each student to ensure they are correctly completing the graphic organizer. This will also allow the teacher to spend more time with students who require extra assistance.



A. This activity will take approximately 1 class period to complete.

The teacher should review the similarities and differences with students. Then, looking at the details listed on their Interactive Venn Diagram, students will use an online resource to create an outline map for their essay. The “Compare and Contrast Map” is available at:

This interactive first requires students to choose the method of organization in which they wish to write. Next, it walks students through creating topic sentences and main discussion points for each paragraph. Students should be reminded that they can refer back to the notes from day 1 if needed.

B. This activity should be completed for homework.

In class, students should print their outline map in order to assist in writing a rough draft. The rough draft should be completed for homework and ready for editing during the next class.



A. This activity will take approximately 1 class period to complete.

Students should be placed with a partner to hold a session of peer-editing. Each student should, first, be given a copy of the essay rubric so that they can see exactly how their writing will be assessed. The rubric should be reviewed with students to ensure understanding. To help prepare students for state testing, the PSSA Domain Rubric for Writing should be used so that students become comfortable with state writing expectations. A compare and contrast essay is a type of informational writing, so be sure to use the appropriate rubric. The teacher should also look at conventions of writing, which is a separate rubric. Both can be accessed at:

To assist with the actual peer-editing process, each student should receive a handout of instructions. This handout can be found at:

It explains what to look for when editing a peer’s writing, and will allow for more independent work so that the teacher can check in with each pair of students throughout class.

B. This activity should be completed for homework.

Students should take the notes from peer-editing and revise their essays. Revisions should be completed for homework and students should be ready to type a final copy during the next class.




A. This activity will take approximately 1 class period to complete.

Students will use Microsoft Word or other word processing program to type and print their final compare and contrast essay. The essay should be saved to the students’ document folder so it may be accessed whenever needed.



Extension Activity

Essays will be turned in to the teacher, assessed according to the PSSA Domain Rubric for Writing, and then returned. If writing portfolios are utilized, students may revise a second time, according to the teacher’s comments, retype a final copy, and place both versions of the essay in the portfolio.

Formative Assessment

  • Students will complete a worksheet about the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race in order to gather details about the race. The teacher will check the information for correctness.
  • Students will use the Venn Diagram as a formative assessment, showing that they have successfully noted the similarities and differences between the race in Iron Will and the Iditarod race. The teacher will use the Venn Diagram rubric to grade each student’s information.


Summative Assessment

Students will compose a final compare and contrast essay to demonstrate their knowledge of both races and their ability to put thoughts into written word, following a particular organizational pattern. The teacher will use the five-category, four-point PSSA Domain Rubric for Writing to grade each student’s writing.


PSSA Rubric for Writing:

Related Materials & Resources

  • The Official Site of the Iditarod:
  • Idita-Rock-N-Roll video (This can be purchased from if desired.)


Date Published

March 03, 2010
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