Why The Whales Came – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

It’s no secret that children must be exposed to different types of quality literature in their early years to help them develop critical thinking skills and an appreciation for reading.

As teachers, this means broadening our classroom libraries and choosing texts that model mastery of the craft and a deep understanding of cultural perspectives.

One such book is Michael Morpurgo’s The Whales Came – a story full of emotion, suspense, and insight into human nature.

In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of lesson planning activities for each chapter – so read on if you’re interested in using this excellent text as part of your next literacy lesson plan!

Related: For more, check out our article on Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford  here.

Why The Whales Came

The Storyline of Why The Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo

The story follows Gracie and Daniel, two children who live on the Small Winter Isle off the coast of England and have a mysterious visitor on their island.

The visitor is called Edwin, who tells them about a legend of the whales coming to protect the island when it’s in trouble. Strangely enough, three whales appear in the sea near their village soon after Edwin arrives.

Gracie and Daniel set out to discover why these whales came to their island. They find out that Edwin is an older man from a nearby island, and his own home was destroyed by developers, which caused the death of several whales in his community.

He believes asking for help from other islands could save the whales’ lives.

Gracie and Daniel join forces with Edwin to save the whales by rallying other people living on nearby islands for their cause.

Eventually, they can get enough support from all around them and protect both the whales and their home from being taken away by developers.

Key Characters of Why The Whales Came


Gracie is the story’s young protagonist who lives on the Small Winter Isles. She finds herself at the heart of events when mysterious visitor Edwin arrives on their shores, and three whales appear in their waters soon afterwards.

Gracie decides to take action against the developers threatening to take away her home, taking control of events and leading her community in their fight against injustice.


Daniel is Gracie’s older brother and an essential character in the novel. He joins his sister in trying to save their home and the whales, helping to spread awareness about their cause and working with others to protect what they love.


Edwin is an older man from a nearby island whose home was destroyed by developers, causing several whale deaths in his community. He visits the Small Winter Isles seeking help for his cause, believing that if enough people rally together, they can save their homes and the whales.

Key Themes of Why The Whales Came


This theme runs throughout the story as Gracie and Daniel lead their community in their fight against the developers.

They discover that by working together, they can mobilise enough support from other nearby islands to protect their own home and save the whales’ lives.


This theme is explored through Edwin’s backstory of his home being destroyed by developers causing the death of several whales in his community.

It highlights the importance of looking after our environment and protecting wildlife from unnecessary destruction caused by human activity.


Family is also a key theme in this story as Gracie and Daniel band together to protect what they love and ensure no harm to their home or the whales. It shows how even with challenges, a family can stay strong in times of crisis, provide comfort, and help each other through difficult situations.

Environmentalism and the conservation

Environmentalism and the conservation of the environment can be great topics to teach in the classroom. Educating children on the importance of taking care of our planet and preserving our wildlife is essential.

Here are some potential activities that could be used in the classroom to engage students in this topic:

  • Classroom Discussion: Encourage students to discuss environmental issues they have seen or heard about. This will help them gain a greater understanding of how their actions have an impact on their environment.
  • Research Projects: Assign research projects for students to learn about environmental issues and possible solutions.
  • Outdoor Activities: Take advantage of the outdoors and plan outdoor activities such as hikes, nature walks, birdwatching, or clean-up initiatives at local parks or beaches. These can be great ways for students to observe nature around them and learn more about how they can protect it.
  • Play Games: Involve students with fun educational games related to environmental protection, like recycling sorting, energy conservation challenges etc.

Lesson Plans

Lesson 1: Community Action and Environmentalism

This lesson focuses on the power of community action and the importance of protecting the environment. Students will discover why it is essential to work together to protect our environment and wildlife from the destruction caused by human activity.


Students will understand how their actions impact their environment and how they can take steps to preserve it.

Teaching Materials:

Excerpts from Why The Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo, discussion questions, and research project prompts.

Activity 1:

Read excerpts from Why The Whales Came together as a class and discuss how Gracie and Daniel led their community in their fight against the developers and Edwin’s backstory of his home being destroyed by developers. Ask students if they have seen or heard about similar environmental issues in their community.

Activity 2:

Assign a research project for pairs/groups of students to learn more about various environmental issues and possible solutions for them. After completion, have a class discussion to share the findings.

Lesson 2: Taking Care of Our Environment – Games Activity

This lesson focuses on teaching students how to care for their environment through fun educational games related to environmental protection, like recycling sorting, energy conservation challenges etc.


Students will gain an understanding of how they can be more conscious about taking care of our planet through game-based activities that are both fun and educational.

Teaching Materials:

Variety of educational games related to environmental protection, such as recycling sorting, energy conservation challenges etc., and discussion questions related to environmental protection after each game

Activity 1:

Introduce an environmental protection game, such as recycling sorting or energy conservation challenge to the students, and explain the rules and objectives of the game if necessary.

Allow students time to play the game in pairs/small groups or individually, depending on what works best for your students.

Remind them to think about any tips or tricks that might help them during the game to perform better in future instances when playing this or similar games.

Activity 2:

After completing the game, ask students questions related to protecting our planet, such as what they learned while playing this game.

What tips did they find most helpful? How can these activities make a difference in protecting our environment? Encourage open dialogue so that everyone has a chance to contribute their thoughts and ideas!

Website Resources

Why The Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo :

This page provides a teaching resource for the book Why The Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo. It includes detailed lesson plans, activities and worksheets suited to all age groups from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 3, as well as challenging questions to further develop student understanding of the text.

Why The Whales Came Teaching Resources:

This page hosts a range of resources for teachers who want to use Why The Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo in their classroom. It includes activities and worksheets tailored to different age levels, discussion prompts, writing ideas, quizzes, and more!

Why The Whales Came Reading Comprehension:

This page offers a range of interactive reading comprehension activities suitable for primary-level students focused on the book Why The Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo. Students can read extracts from the book and then answer multiple-choice questions related to critical details and facts or complete an extended writing task based on their understanding of the text.

Understanding the depth and beauty of ‘Why The Whales Came’ by Michael Morpurgo requires not only a close reading of the text but also an appreciation for the historical and cultural context in which it is set. How can we fully grasp the characters’ connection to nature without understanding the history of the Scilly Isles, where the story unfolds?

Can we truly appreciate the book’s anti-war sentiment without a basic knowledge of World War I? Fortunately, several resources can help enrich our understanding of this evocative novel. For instance, the British Library’s collection provides valuable insights into Morpurgo’s works and themes.

Scholastic’s teaching resources also offer practical strategies for integrating ‘Why The Whales Came’ into your classroom activities. By leveraging these resources and approaching the novel with curiosity and openness, we can unlock new layers of understanding and appreciation for Morpurgo’s timeless tale.

FAQs for Teaching ‘Matilda’ in the Classroom

1. What makes ‘Matilda’ a good choice for literacy lesson plans?

‘Matilda’ is filled with engaging characters, exciting plot twists, and important themes about courage and resilience. These elements make it an excellent tool for teaching reading comprehension, critical thinking, and character analysis.

2. How can I use your chapter-by-chapter activity guide?

Our guide provides specific activities and discussion points for each chapter of ‘Matilda’. You can use these as a lesson roadmap, adapting them as needed to suit your students’ needs and interests.

3. What if my students are struggling with some of the themes in ‘Matilda’?

It’s normal for students to grapple with complex themes. Encourage open discussions, provide additional resources for background understanding, and remind them that it’s okay to have different interpretations.

4. Can I incorporate other subjects into my ‘Matilda’ lessons?

Absolutely! ‘Matilda’ can be used to explore subjects beyond literacy. For instance, you could discuss the science behind Matilda’s telekinetic powers or use the setting to teach about geography and culture.

5. How can I assess my students’ understanding of ‘Matilda’?

Assessment can take many forms. Consider quizzes on the plot and characters, essays on the book’s themes, or creative projects like character diaries or alternative story endings.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






Join our email list to receive the latest updates.

Add your form here