I just know that “Saving The Dolphins,” the narrative nonfiction story in the October/November issue of Storyworks Jr., is going to be an instant hit with my class. I cannot keep enough books stocked in my classroom about dolphins, sharks and other sea creatures. My students just eat them up! So I’ve come up with a fun plan that utilizes several different learning styles, creates empathy and different perspectives, and also ties in a writing piece. See if it can work in your class, too.
I’ll have students make their own dolphin! I have a sneaky reason for tying a craft into this lesson: I want them to really get into having this “cute pet” on their desk all week, so that they can find out later in the text about dolphin friendships and the surprising meaning of dolphin “smiles.” I found two resources that walk kids through the process of drawing a dolphin:
- a 6-minute, kid-friendly video with easy steps
- a simple 7-step chart (scroll down to “Drawing a Cartoon Dolphin”)
I’ll ask my kids to make the cutest, happiest-looking dolphin that they can imagine, and name it. In the text, they’ll discover an amazing fact about dolphins: They form friendships that last many years. Next, I’ll have them introduce their dolphin to the class, and pick partners for “dolphin friendships” and buddy readers.
I’ll use the Vocabulary Slideshow to introduce the tricky words in the story. Since I have a wide variety of reading levels in my class but I still like to teach this as a whole-group activity, I usually project one word at a time, and using the Word Hunt activity sheet, we find the best spot to fill in that word together. Finally, dolphin partners will use that word in their own sentence, and share with each other.
Now we’ll read the story together, having dolphin partners sitting together to discuss the Pause and Think questions and share out with the class. Imagine how they’ll feel when they find out that those cute, smiling dolphins aren’t necessarily happy! And how would their fun friends feel when they are taken away from their families because they’re caught in a net or captured to work at a hotel? Then, I’ll give them a clipboard to find a spot in the room with their partners to work on the close-thinking questions on the Think About It sheet.
On the last day, my students will write an S.O.S. letter from their dolphin’s perspective. I’ll encourage them to use character trait words and answer questions like: How did you get captured? What does it feel like? Do you miss your family? What do you do every day? Have you seen any “dolphin defenders” trying to save you? What do you want people to know to keep you and your friends safe? I found some free, really cute dolphin stationery for kids to use here.
Finally, my class always loves acting out what they learn, and it’s a great way to build understanding and comprehension. So I’ll put students into groups of 4 and have them pick the roles of a Dolphin Defender, a Hotel Worker/Catcher, and 2 dolphin friends. They’ll plan out a presentation to the class based on what they read in the story. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
Beth Orticelli is a 2nd-grade teacher in St. Charles, Illinois.