In this novel, based on a true story, a young boy named Sawyer forms a special bond with a dolphin named Winter, who has lost her tail in a crab trap. Sawyer gets an idea to make Winter a prosthetic tail, and with the help of the staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Winter is able to swim again.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text “Standing Out in the Herd,” Cecil Dzwowa explains how a giraffe came to be a part of a herd of cows.
Read this informational text before reading Dolphin Tale to have students think about the ways humans can help animals in need. Have students discuss how the herders helped Toro in “Standing Out in the Herd.” Then, have students discuss how Toro was able to successfully adjust to his new life. Tell students that as they read Dolphin Tale, they will be thinking about similar themes of survival and helping animals in need.
In Julie Tozier’s “Strong for Skeena,” a boy must be strong for his sled dog after she is seriously injured.
Read this short story after chapter 2 to have students analyze character motivation. In this chapter, Sawyer saves the dolphin from the crab trap. While reading, students discuss Sawyer’s actions. Then, have students discuss Matt’s actions in “Strong for Skeena.” Have students consider why Sawyer and Matt both help animals. Ask, “Why did Sawyer help the dolphin and why did Matt help Skeena? How did both characters demonstrate bravery?” Students may give examples of what the characters were thinking when they helped the animals and explain how their actions were brave.
In “Swimming with Sharks,” a boy experiences snorkeling with a group of nurse sharks.
Read this short story after chapter 4 to have students think about authors’ word choice. In this chapter, Sawyer soothes Winter and helps her swim. Have students discuss the words and phrases the author uses to describe the interaction between Sawyer and Winter. Then, have students discuss the words and phrases the author uses to describe the interaction between the narrator and the sharks in “Swimming with Sharks.” Have students discuss how the authors’ word choice conveys their messages. Ask, “How do the words and phrases the authors use in chapter 4 of Dolphin Tale and in ‘Swimming with Sharks’ convey the characters’ awe and respect for the animals?” Students should point out specific words and phrases and explain how they show the characters’ feelings.
In James Herriot’s short story “The Market Square Dog,” a veterinarian and a policeman help a stray dog that is injured.
Read this short story after chapter 6 to have students analyze relationships between humans and animals. In this chapter, Sawyer is worried about his cousin, Kyle, but playing with Winter cheers him up. Have students discuss how Winter has changed as her relationship with Sawyer has developed. Then, have students discuss how the dog in “The Market Square Dog” changes over the course of the story as the veterinarian and police officer help her. Have students discuss the relationship between humans and animals in both texts. Ask, “How does showing the animals kindness impact the lives of the animals and the humans in Dolphin Tale and ‘The Market Square Dog?’” Students may give examples of the ways the lives and moods of humans and animals improve as they engage with each other.
A young boy learns a lesson about courage after finding a chicken.
Read this short story after chapter 11 to have students analyze character traits. In this chapter, the characters are discouraged because Winter has rejected her second prosthetic tail. Have students discuss why Sawyer is determined to help Winter survive. Then, have students discuss why Miguel is determined to save the chicken in “The Chicken that Crossed the Road.” Have students compare the two main characters. Ask, “How is Sawyer’s attitude similar to Miguel’s attitude in ‘The Chicken that Crossed the Road?’ What traits do Sawyer and Miguel have in common?” Students may give examples of the characters’ strength and resolve.
In this text, a group of students realize that anything is possible when a community works together.
Read this short story after finishing Dolphin Tale to have students reflect on how communities help each other. Have students discuss how various characters contributed to Winter’s fundraiser. Then, have students discuss how the children, teachers, and community members contributed to the park cleanup in “Hooray for Us!” Have students reflect on the importance of communities that help each other. Ask, “Why is it powerful when communities come together to help each other or those in need?” Students should give specific evidence from both texts to support their thinking.