Common Core Literacy Standards require that students are proficient in those skills necessary to comprehend adult informational text and to use these texts in order to write cogent, well documented argumentative essays. Every teacher knows that this takes practice, practice, and more practice. Every teacher also knows that the key to getting students to do all this practice is unit subject-matter that appeals to student interest. YoOceans! pilot programs for our units have proven so successful primarily because the subject of marine mammals, whales and dolphins, acts as a powerful hook to capture student interest and engagement from the very start.
Our unit on the controversial dolphin hunt held yearly in Taiji Japan presents award-winning videos based on the work of one time dolphin trainer for the television series “Flipper”, Ric O’Berry, who has become a tireless advocate in the cause to protect all marine life and specifically, to bring an end to the state-sanctioned slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen. Because students’ interest is peaked by watching “The Cove” and follow-up productions from “Animal Planet,” they are further interested in reading and discussing opinion pieces, news releases and scientific articles that present arguments from the very different cultural viewpoints that surround the yearly dolphin hunt and international treatment of marine mammals in general. In addition, the suggested notetaking and writing assignments that follow every video and reading promote students’ critical thinking as they consider the differing points of view presented.
Finally, YoOceans! offers the chance for students to express their considered opinions and discuss issues face-to-face with men and women who are working hard to study and advocate for marine health. In the case of this unit, we offered the pilot classes a Q and A with Mr. Ric O’Berry via Skype!