Song for a Whale Activities

Activities to do with the Novel Song for a Whale

Song for a Whale is a terrific novel based on a real whale. The “world’s loneliest whale” sings at an unusual frequency of 52 Hz that can’t be heard by other whales. Author Lynne Kelly heard of this whale, paired it with her knowledge of sign language through her career as an interpreter, and this magical story was created.

Ms. Alamilla shows her class a film about a whale called Blue 55. Iris feels a connection to Blue 55 because she has trouble hearing as well. Iris comes up with a plan to help the researches at the sanctuary tag Blue 55, so they can follow his migration. Will her plan work? Will Iris be able to reach the sanctuary before Blue leaves to give her idea a try? 

Read Song for a Whale to find out.

Activities for Song for a Whale

Novel Study Samples

Song for a Whale Novel Study

Grab your free novel study samples including vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed response writing prompt here.

You can get the free book unit sample plus the poem activity by clicking the button.

Teaching Idea #1 – Poetry

Poem Activity

In Song for a Whale, Ms. Conn returns Iris’s poem marked up with red ink. Iris must rewrite the poem because it doesn’t rhyme. Iris explains that her poem is special in sign language.

Page 8 – The trick was our hands had to keep the same shape for the whole story. Like if we started out with a closed fist, every sign for the rest of the story had to be made with a fist too. We’d go on and on like that until one of us couldn’t think of something to add without breaking the handshape rule….We told the story with our hands open like the number five the whole way through.

The website Baby Sign Language provides free printable flashcards with pictures and sign motions. The website also contains videos of the signs. The handout contains links to the signs that come as close to Iris’s handshape poem as I could find. 

Even though some signs are not exact, they will give students a better understanding of the beauty of Iris’s poem. Students can retell Iris’s poem using signs to see the appeal of the poem.

The handout also contains a comparative activity to Iris’s handshape poem from the novel to the poem in the picture book  52 – A Tale of Loneliness by Johnny DePalma. This picture book makes the perfect addition to your Song for a Whale unit. The book is inspired by the 52 Hz whale. Since the story is told in lyrical rhymes, it not only makes a great comparison activity but can also be used to practice poetic elements. 

Poem Activity

Questions to Ask

Who is the audience?

How is the speaker/narrator of this poem?

How did the poem make you feel?

What is the mood in this poem? How did the poem make you feel?

Explain figures of speech – metaphors, similes, imagery, symbols.

What is the tone in this poem? How does the author feel about the topic of the poem?

Write the theme of this poem in a single sentence.

Does this poem rhyme? If so, what is the rhyming scheme?

How did the poem make you feel?

Teaching Idea #2 – Author Video

You can check out Lynne Kelly’s website here.

Teaching Idea #3 – Song for a Whale Audio Book

Julie Chavez reads the entire book to her students through a series of YouTube videos. Here is the first one.

Teaching Idea #4 – Activities on the Web

The Loneliest Whale in the World? – This article by The Washington Post is worth visiting for the artwork alone. The informative article is terrific for classroom use providing factual information mixed with sound files.

Defenders of Wildlife

Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary

National Wildlife Refuge System Use their interactive map to find a  wildlife refuge near your home.

PBS Videos – PBS has 74 videos on sound waves. You can find videos by grade level.

Teaching Idea #5 – Book Club Ideas for Song for a Whale

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing these great ideas!

Today we made whale “pizzas” and whale cookies. 

Whale Cookies
Whale-Shaped Pizza

We listened to whale sounds and the sound 55 hertz makes. We also did a hearing test where students listened to various frequencies to see what they could and could not hear. I also pretended to teach a lesson while a few students had on noise-canceling headphones. They had to try to understand the lesson without being able to hear it so that they could see how Iris feels in her classes. They loved that.

Book Club Trivia Game

We play quiz games each time. I have a giant Connect Four yard game we use. Students are divided into two teams.  The students have to buzz in using a fun tool called “Eggspert”, and if they answer correctly, they put one of their team’s pieces into the Connect Four game.

Book Club Trivia Game
Schedule for Reading Song for a Whale
I also made whale tail bookmarks for each kid and a reading calendar.
Here are two examples of bookmarks. I used the bookmark with the Bible verse on it, but I changed one for you so it would be non-Bible related for public school use.
origami whales

We made origami whales (which is referenced in the story).

origami whales

Teaching Idea #6 – Blubber – Another Great Idea from Amanda

How does blubber keep a whale warm?
After reading about “whale bubble nets” in the story, we watched a video of whales using this technique.
Then we explored how blubber helps whales keep warm. First, we made “blubber bags” (using Crisco). Students put a rubber glove on one hand (this represented an animal’s skin with no blubber). They put their other hand inside a blubber bag and put both hands in ice water at the same time. The blubber bag provided insulation from the cold water, giving students an idea of how blubber works. We then watched a movie that talks about blubber and uses donuts to compare the thickness of the blubber for three different types of whales. We created our own donut comparison and had a tasty treat to eat afterward.
How thick is whale blubber?
Student Experiment - How does blubber keep a whale warm?

Teaching Idea #7 – Whale-abration – Another Great Idea from Amanda

How does blubber keep a whale warm?

Today was our last book club meeting. After filling up their bellies on some “Crunchy Coral, Whale Bubbles, Whale Blow Holes, and other yummy treats, including “Ocean Water,” the students made whale ornaments and ocean slime. It was a fun way to end a great book club!

Song for a Whale-abration
Song for a Whale-abration
Song for a Whale Boom Learning
Song for a Whale Google Slides

See the product that inspired this post.

Song for a Whale Novel Study

Song for a Whale Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice.  

Gay Miller

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