Dolphins is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson that allows students to practice grade-appropriate reading comprehension, foundational reading, and reading fluency skills. These reading comprehension lessons are designed to be completed in one or two class settings.

Each lesson discusses a subject that students want to read about and that teachers will want to incorporate into their reading instruction. The lesson is appropriate as a whole-class, stand-alone lesson or as an independent small-group activity. Be sure to check out the Learn Bright video that goes with this lesson!

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What our Dolphins lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Dolphins is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson plan. As such, students will practice various close reading and comprehension skills. In addition, they will learn about the habitat, diet, and behaviors of dolphins. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires blindfolds and either masking tape or cones.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. It explains that you can teach this lesson in a whole-class setting or to an independent, small group as an activity. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


What Is a Dolphin?

The Dolphins lesson plan contains three content pages. It begins by providing a box of background information about this animal. The common name for this mammal is bottlenose dolphin. Dolphins live in all of the oceans and even some freshwater rivers. They eat fish, krill, plankton, and squid. And they live for 30 to 50 years.

Students will learn that while dolphins might look like giant fish, they are mammals just like us. They breathe air, give birth to live young, nurse their babies with milk, have hair at some point, and are warm-blooded. More than 35 types or species of dolphins divide into two groups. Actual dolphins live all over the world in salt or fresh water. River dolphins only live in South America and Asia and prefer fresh water.

Dolphins belong to a large group of animals called whales. While they are not as big as whales, dolphins range from 7 to 10 feet long. Some can reach up to 13 feet long. They have smooth, rubbery skin, like a bar of slippery soap. They can be white, black, or grey. They have two flippers on their sides, and on their back, they have a triangular fin. Dolphins look like porpoises, another aquatic mammal. In fact, they look so much alike that people often confuse the two animals. But dolphins have more prominent, longer snouts than porpoises.

Because dolphins are mammals, they must reach the water’s surface for air. So when a baby dolphin—called a calf—is born, the mother gently nudges it to the surface to take its first breath of air. After that, dolphins breathe through a single nostril called a blowhole, which you would find on top of its head!

Living in a Pod and the Dolphin Diet

Dolphins are very intelligent, social, and playful. They live together in groups called a pod. Because dolphins are very social, they interact with one another, swim together, protect each other, and hunt for food together as a team. Living in a pod is very important because it helps protect them from predators like sharks.

There are usually 10 to 15 dolphins in a pod. However, depending on the species, most pods have between 2 and 30 dolphins. Sometimes, pods join together to create superpods of 100 or even several thousand dolphins! Dolphins make superpods during mating season or when prey is abundant. When the activity is over, the superpods break down into smaller pods.

For the most part, dolphins eat fish, krill, plankton, and cephalopods (which are squid). However, depending on the species, they may eat more of one type of food than another. And this is why their teeth are different shapes. For example, bottlenose dolphins generally eat many fish, squid, and krill. Their teeth are conical and blunt. But other species have sharper teeth to help them eat larger prey, like seals.

Furthermore, dolphins don’t use their teeth just to catch and eat food. They also use their teeth to establish dominance, power, or influence over others. For example, they use their teeth to make parallel scratches, called rake marks, on each other’s skin. Each pod of dolphins has a unique hierarchy, which is a system of organization based on status. The lowest-ranked are usually the youngest, and the ranking moves up to the most dominant.

Other Interesting Facts

A dolphin is like a bat because they both use echolocation or sound waves to navigate and hunt. A dolphin’s teeth form a pattern that serves as an antenna. These animals use their teeth to receive incoming echolocation clicks to make finding an object’s exact location easier or to better communicate.

Since they have more than 44 teeth in each quadrant of their mouth (that’s upper, lower, left, and right), we call them polydonts, which means many teeth. And we can consider most dolphin species homodonts as well because they only have one type of tooth. Humans, on the other hand, have four types of teeth—incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.

Just like you have a name that your parents and friends call you, each dolphin has a unique whistle their mother gives them right after birth. They learn their whistle from their mother. So every dolphin has a different whistle, and scientists have found that dolphins call each other by their names. This makes dolphins highly unique in the animal world!

Importance of Dolphins

Without dolphins, the animals they eat would increase in number, and their predators wouldn’t have much to eat. The whole food web would be out of balance. But sadly, dolphins face many threats to their survival, primarily because of humans. Fishing techniques have allowed people to catch more fish, removing their food supply. And during large-scale fishing, dolphins will accidentally get caught in nets and possibly die. People also hunt and kill dolphins so they don’t detract from their fish or ruin their nets.

Pollution is another big problem for dolphins. Lots of waste enters the sea and creates a physical hazard for dolphins. Sometimes they eat a plastic bag because they think it looks like food. And because of the heavy metal pollutants in the ocean, dolphins are now getting cancerous tumors. It is up to us to help dolphins survive by keeping the ocean clean and helping increase their food supply!


The Dolphins lesson plan includes two worksheets: an activity worksheet and a practice worksheet. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


The activity will involve the whole class. One person will be a dolphin while everyone else is a fish. The objective of the game is for the dolphin to “capture” all the fish. Whoever is the dolphin for each round will put on a blindfold and stand in the middle of the playing area. This represents the concept of echolocation since dolphins cannot always use their eyes to see.

All the “fish” people will spread out within the boundaries, which you can mark with cones or masking tape. When the round starts, the dolphin will say “Click!” and the fish will respond by saying “Click!” as well. (The click represents the echo.) The dolphin should listen to the clicks to find the other students and tag them. Once the dolphin tags all the fish or if the dolphin goes out of bounds, the round ends.


The practice worksheet requires students to answer a series of 11 questions. These questions all relate to the content pages, so students will need to refer to them often for the answers. In addition, each question provides which reading tool the question corresponds to, such as text feature, vocabulary, or comprehension.

Worksheet Answer Keys

At the end of the lesson plan document is an answer key for the practice worksheet. The correct answers are all in red to make it easier for you to compare them with students’ responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade


Science, High-Interest Reading

State Educational Standards

Approximate Lexile Reading Comprehension Level: 810L to 1000L

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.