White Wolf

Photo courtesy of Andrew Johnson via Flickr.

This nonfiction article is written for use with upper-elementary students (grades 4-5). Modified versions are available for students in grades K-1 and grades 2-3, or any student needing a simplified version. As always, consider the reading level and needs of your students when selecting a version for classroom use.

At each grade level, the article is available in three forms. Printable pdf files allow you to print this story in either text or a foldable book format. Your students can listen to the story while they read our electronic book version. Reading strategy templates and related activities provide tips for integrating this story with your science and literacy instruction.

Interested in other nonfiction articles for your students? Browse all twenty sets from the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears collection on our Stories for Students page!

White Wolf

Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level = 5.2

You’re running faster than you’ve ever run before, chasing a small white shape that darts back and forth a few yards ahead. A frigid arctic wind blasts your eyes, ears, and snow-white fur, but you don’t feel the cold. For you, this is warm and lovely summer weather.

You are an arctic wolf. You were born two summers ago, a roly-poly pup in a litter of four. Your mother, father, and packmates (mostly your older brothers and sisters) all took care of you that first summer. They brought you food, they protected you from danger, and they played with you. By playing with you almost every day, your packmates taught you how to pounce, how to wrestle, and how to chase down food.

Now you are an adult wolf, two years old, fast, sleek, powerful, and getting stronger every day. You’re chasing your own food across the arctic tundra. The young arctic hare, a long-legged rabbit with fur even whiter than yours, is very fast, but you are a strong runner.  You can run this fast for a very, very long time. Eventually, if things go your way, the hare will tire, and you will eat.

After you’ve eaten, you will head back to the den. Your younger brothers and sisters, this summer’s pups, will run up to greet you. You might feed them a little from the food you’ve stored in your own stomach. Or you might just play with them, as your older brothers and sisters played with you when you were only a pup.

You will also sleep. In the long arctic summer, the Sun does not set for four months. So you sleep when you’re tired, hunt when you’re hungry, and travel with your pack whenever the leaders decide it’s time to go.

You and your packmates spend much of your time sleeping in the sunlight, lying near enough the den to be sure the pups are safe. Each year’s pups are precious; without them, your pack will soon disappear. Arctic wolves do not live long lives, perhaps only seven to ten summers.

Later, you might follow the pack leaders on a group hunt. You’ll head off toward the far horizon, leaving behind the pups and one member of your pack (sometimes, but not always, the pups’ mother) to care for the pups while you are gone. You might run five miles or more, without stopping to rest, eat, or drink. All the while, you’ll scan the tundra for any signs of life.

Finally, you’ll spot a herd of musk oxen. They are huge, shaggy animals with dangerous curved horns and sharp, powerful hooves. They might weigh 200 times more than you! Still, you’ll approach these giant creatures. In this cold and barren land, you must find food, even if it comes in the form of a 2,000-pound monster.

When the hunt goes well, you and the rest of the pack will eat. There will be plenty of food to take back to the pups, and they will grow into strong and swift young wolves like yourself. When the hunting goes badly, you or one of your packmates might be injured or even killed by the oxen, and the pack will go hungry. The summer days will not last for long, and the hunger never stops; you must find food soon.

For winter is coming. When the Sun disappears below the horizon for the four long, frigid months of winter, your life will be different. Then you will struggle each day just to stay alive. You’ll find food where you can, huddle together with your packmates to stay warm, and wait for the day when the Sun finally returns.

But now it is bright, lovely summer. You’re running faster than you’ve ever run before, chasing the white shape that is just a little bit nearer.


barren – empty, producing few plants

dart – to move suddenly or quickly

frigid – very cold

litter – a group of baby animals born at the same time

tundra – a flat, treeless plain

Modified versions of this text are available for grades K-1 (Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level = 1.9) and grades 2-3 (Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level = 3.3). See below for links to all three versions in text, book, and electronic book forms.

Printable Files

Print the text-only version of this article for grades:
Print book versions of this article for grades:

Notes for assembling the books:

You can put this book together a couple of different ways. You can print out the pages, cut them in half and then order the pages back to front. Fold the stack in half and then staple the spine of the book. Pairs of pages can then be stapled or glued along the right edge.

You can also assemble the book as a foldable book.

To assemble the books this way, print the four pages and align the document pages so that the following book page numbers are in the lower right-hand corner: front page, page 6, page 2, and page 4. (The cover page should be on top and page 4 on the bottom.) Set your copier to copy single pages into double pages and run the four document pages in the order specified. Cut along the dotted line in the center of the double-sided page, place the book pages in order, fold, and staple along the spine.

Electronic Books

White Wolf

Grades K-1 Electronic Book
Articulate Version
Flash Version

Grades 2-3 Electronic Book
Articulate Version
Flash Version

Grades 4-5 Electronic Book
Articulate Version
Flash Version

In the Articulate version, click on the small arrow at the top of each page for the narration. The large arrow at the right will take you to the next page.

In the Flash version, the play button (in the top right hand corner) will play an audio file of the text on that page, while the pawprint (bottom right hand corner) will turn to the next page. Please note that the audio files take a moment to load on each page. Once the file has been loaded, a play button will appear in the top right hand corner of the page. To minimize the delay on each page, you can open the file and read through the article first. Once each page’s audio has loaded, it remains loaded until you close the browser window. By preparing the article ahead of time, you can have students start at the beginning of the book and read without delays. If you don’t have Flash, you can download it for free from the Adobe web site.

Listening Comprehension Literacy Set
This set includes three levels of e-books and foldable PDF booklets for grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-5, plus an article on the reading skill of listening comprehension and three levels of printable PDF activity templates for students.

Reading Strategy Templates

When used as a read-aloud, the article provides an opportunity for students to develop their listening comprehension skills. The following template can be used in conjunction with “White Wolf.” For more information on this strategy, please see “Listening Comprehension Skills for Elementary Students.”

White Wolf Listening Comprehension Template: Grades K-1
The teacher reads the article, stopping at important ideas to allow students time to respond with details in the box to the right. Depending on ability, students can either draw their response or write words. When completed the template can be used by students to retell the important details of the article, helping to further their understanding.

White Wolf Listening Comprehension Template: Grades 2-3

White Wolf Listening Comprehension Template: Grades 4-5

Before reading, it is important to tell students what they are listening for. Students respond with either a complete sentence or JOT, which stands for just one, two, or three words.

The teacher reads the article, pausing periodically to allow students time to reflect and respond. Students may share their responses with a partner or table group. These brief discussions are beneficial and reassuring for students, especially those who might need extra support.

Related Activities

Arctic Wolf (Grades K-2)
A short article and a coloring page.

Arctic Wolf (Grades K-5)
Basic information and images of arctic wolves.

Wild Animal Watch: Wolves (Grades 3-5)
Students explore wolves’ territory, learn about their living habits, examine their family structure, and meet wolf specialists from all over the country.

A Wolf’s World (Grades K-5)
Two lessons on this page are appropriate for students in the elementary grades. In “Life Within the Pack,” students discuss and mimic wolf behavior. In “Disperse Tag,” students simulate pack behavior by playing a game.

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf? (Grades 3-5)
Students use observation skills and primary sources to learn how wolves communicate. They write stories to dispel the idea that wolves are inherently “good” or “evil.”

Howling Arctic Wolves, Eureka 08Jul2009
This 3:23 video contains footage of Arctic wolves on Ellesmere Island. We’ve also embedded the video below.

Musk Oxen vs. Arctic Wolves
Video footage from National Geographic (2:16) of Arctic wolves hunting musk oxen. May not be appropriate for younger students as it includes footage of the wolves killing a young musk oxen. We’ve also embedded the video below.

This article was written by Stephen Whitt. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site. The content of this page was updated in June 2020.

Copyright January 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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