Dolphins: Lesson 2 English, Yr 7

What’s Behind the Dolphin Smile?

In this lesson, students will read, discuss and analyse a range of texts that explore a current global issue; the impact of captivity on dolphins. Students will consider how dolphins have been represented in popular culture and discuss how this impacts our views and opinions towards them. The lesson culminates with students composing a creative text of their own that demonstrates an understanding of either the experiences of a life in captivity for a dolphin or, life in the wild.

Time Allocation

Two lessons.

Voiceless Resources

Other Resources

Key Inquiry Questions

  • How have dolphins been represented in popular culture and how has this impacted our views and attitudes towards them?
  • How do different texts use language, sound and imagery to portray the lives of dolphins, both in captivity and in the wild?

Suggested Learning Activities


Begin with a general discussion about how popular culture teaches people to think about animals in general and marine mammals specifically. How are dolphins represented in films, music clips and books? Have students visited dolphins in captivity or seen them in the wild? What were their experiences?

Students then read through the Voiceless Fact Sheet: Dolphins in Captivity.

Questions to consider whilst reading:

  • What are dolphins?
  • What are the impacts of captivity on dolphin welfare?
  • How many dolphins are in captivity worldwide?
  • What are the arguments for and against keeping dolphins in captivity?


Understanding Texts Designed to Inform and Persuade

  • Put students in groups of four, or complete this activity as a class
  • Students are to watch the following clip: Sea World – Dolphin Care. (My Gold Coast, YouTube) (0.00-1.34).
  • After watching the clip twice, students must answer the following questions:
  1. What is the purpose of this clip – to inform, to persuade, or to entertain? Explain your reasoning.
  2. At 0.16 what kind of camera shot is used? What impact does this shot have on the viewer?
  3. How would you describe the music used in the segment? What atmosphere or mood does this create? Why do you think the producer has chosen this type of music?
  4. What name has the dolphinarium been given, and what impact does this have on the viewer?
  5. A scientific expert is interviewed who refers to the dolphins as ‘off-shore bottlenose dolphins’ – what do you think the term ‘off-shore’ means in this context?
  6. What kinds of behaviours do the dolphins engage in during the clip? Why do you think the director has chosen to include these types of behaviours? Do you think dolphins behave this way in the wild?
  7. From your reading of the Fact Sheet, what did you learn about how far dolphins travel in the wild? In the video, they explain that the dolphinarium exercises the dolphins to ‘keep them nice and fit’. Why might this be the case?


Dolphin Care segment (0.00-1.34) Wild vs Captive Dolphins segment (1.43-2.45)
Purpose / intention of video  


Comment on the music used and its effect/impact on the viewer
How are dolphins represented in the clip? E.g., in the wild vs in captivity  





Creative Writing Task 

  • Provide students with a copy of the Voiceless Fact Sheet: Dolphins in Captivity to help them complete the following task:
  • Students compose a piece of creative writing that demonstrated their understanding of a day in the life of either a captive dolphin OR a wild dolphin.  Written texts might take the form of a story, poem, or song lyrics. Students should aim to include a range of language features, for example, rhythm, sound devices, figurative language and symbolism.
  • Display the captive v. wild narratives in a classroom display, juxtaposing the two contrasting experiences for the dolphins.


Students complete the following reflection task: Ric Barry, an animal rights activist and former dolphin trainer, once said: ‘the dolphin’s smile is nature greatest deception’.

In light of the information presented in this lesson and the work students have completed, ask them to write a short reflection on Barry’s statement above. They may like to discuss the pros and cons of keeping dolphins in captivity.

To help us improve our materials, we would appreciate any work, feedback or thoughts you would like to share:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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