Whose Point of View? The Journey of Three Generations
(Literature Link for the book Whale Journey)

In her 50 years, Old Gray has traveled a distance equal to traveling to the moon and home again. What's in store for her baby, about to make his first migration? Whale Journey by Vivian French (1998, Zero to Ten Limited) is a fact-filled picture book and gripping tale about the life cycle of the gray whale. You'll want to "journey" through the book more than once as you join three generations of whales on their migration. For Three Scars, it may be the last of her journeys, bittersweet with memories and quite exhausting. For Old Gray, it's a middle journey, one of many more to come. She's been there and done that many times in her life. And for Baby Gray, this is a first. It's a time of wild excitement, challenging thrills, and unknown dangers. It's the same journey, yet different for each one making it.

The journey of three generations provides rich opportunities for personal connections, science learning, and author's craft. Begin with the point-of-view writing activity and expand with the extensions that follow. Whatever the age of your students, you'll find something for everyone!

Try This! Writing Activity
After reading the story, ask students to choose one of the whales in the story: Three Scars, Old Gray, or Baby Gray. Tell them they will write a journal entry from that point of view. Students may use events from the book or events they imagine will happen along the migratory journey. (Older students may wish to write a short story, essay, or memoir from their chosen character's point of view.) Then follow these steps in the writing process:
  1. Prewriting: For students who would benefit, encourage brainstorming with other writers who chose the same character. What is it like to be that whale? What are their fears, concerns, joys, satisfactions? What have they experienced to make them feel that way? What lies ahead for each? How do they view this migration? What memories do they have? Other students may prefer freewriting or clustering to get their ideas and "experiences" flowing.
  2. Drafting: Encourage students to freely write first drafts, leaving blanks to which they can return instead of spending time fleshing out details. Have them review their drafts, then read them aloud to partners. A partner's questions and comments can help writers decide what to change.
  3. Revising: Remind students that revising is the most important step, where 85 percent of a writer's time should be spent. This is the chance to make their writing better, more exact, more descriptive--or even shorter!
  4. Editing: Have students check for errors, make corrections, and prepare final copies. Students may wish to illustrate their stories using a favorite art medium.
  5. Publishing and Sharing: Provide time for authors to share their works!

  • Look at the author's craft. Take another journey through the book to collect descriptive phrases that create mental pictures. Then take a journey to collect strong, active verbs. Next, have students imagine they've been hired to create a travel brochure that makes a whale want to come along and join the 5,000-mile journey. Display brochures or share with other classes.
  • Have students create a timeline or draw a map that shows the annual migratory cycle of a gray whale.
  • Challenge students to come up with a list of whale biology or migration questions for which they can research answers. Journey North's Archives or Answers from Experts (See Site Map) are great places to start.
  • Encourage students to make personal connections. Ask them to identify "big journeys" they are making in their lives. Ask them to think about their life journey until now, and to identify big landmarks. How would they answer the same questions from a parent's or a grandparent's point of view? What advice would they give about life's journeys or milestones to children they may have in the future? What "words to live by" can they contribute?