This is a great article for Earth day.
Researchers have discovered that Humpback whales not only sing their own songs, but these wondrous giants can imitate the singing of other whales! Several of the genetically different groups of whales usually remain in separate populations with little interaction between the groups. According to the article,
“Researchers recorded 11 different song types in the region from 1998 to 2008. Their study, published online Thursday in Current Biology, found that each year, songs spread from one group to another, moving east from Australia to French Polynesia. They believe that this is the first observation of a cultural change transmitted repeatedly on such a large geographic scale.”
Some scientists speculate that since only the males sing, and each group has its special song, maybe the males have discovered that if they sing a different tune, it makes them more attractive to female Humpbacks. An interesting article to read and to share with your L2 learners. Here are several activities to consider.
Language Skill(s) – reading, speaking, and writing.
Time: approximately 1-hour.
Materials: article excerpt.
Goals: Learners will practice reading comprehension, speaking skills and writing skills. Students will also learn information about the Humpback Whales.
I. Pre-reading Tasks
A. Activating Background Knowledge
A good Pre-reading activity for activating background knowledge is the KWL chart. This chart can be used as both a pre-reading and a post-reading activity. For a pre-reading activity, prepare a handout with three columns, and have students fill out the first two columns. For more ideas see ESL Voices reading lessons
After completing the reading comprehension activity, have students fill in the last column.
II. While Reading Task
A. Reading Comprehension
Have students complete the following quiz based on the article.
1. This article is about
2. What is interesting is that the Humpbacks
3. Usually the different groups of Humpbacks
- live separately
- socialize frequently
- sing together
4. According to the article researchers recorded
- 110 different songs
- 20 different songs
- 11 different songs
5. The songs spread from one group to another by moving from
- north Alaska to the south Pacific
- east from Australia to French Polynesia
- west from Australia to Canada
6. The whale sounds travel
- thousands of miles
- 100 miles
- a few miles
7. Researchers think the males are singing different songs because they want to
- attract more females
- join a rock band
- entertain divers
8. According to the article, the males can pick up a new melody
B. Questions for Reflection
- Why is this new information about the Humpback important?
- Can you think of ways this information might contribute to helping the environment?
- How might people benefit from this knowledge?
III. Post Reading Tasks
A. Have students listen to the singing of Humpbacks on Youtube.
Ask them to write a paragraph describing what they think the Whale songs sound like.
B. Have students investigate the anatomy of a Humpback whale by observing paintings or drawings. Students could draw a whale or create a collage of one.
C. Take students on a Whale Watching Tour:
Maui Humpback Whale Watching with Captain Steve (it’s a bit pricey, but the captain seems to be knowledgeable about Humpbacks)
If you have additional activities we’d like to hear about them. Enjoy!
Please come back again.