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Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Teacher Guide by Elizabeth Pedro

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Student Activities for Island of the Blue Dolphins Include:

Island of the Blue Dolphins is a fictional novel based on the true story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas. Karana, a Native American girl, is stuck on an island, forced to survive harsh weather, wild dogs, and enduring solitude, wondering if she’ll ever be rescued and returned to her family. These storyboarding activities will help students understand important details and concepts through the use of an Island of the Blue Dolphins Summary activity, vocabulary analysis, and more!

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of Island of the Blue Dolphins (Contains Plot Spoilers)

Island of the Blue Dolphins begins with Karana and her brother, Ramo, watching as a red Aleut ship sails to their island. Captain Orlov approaches their father, Chief Chowig, and says they will be hunting sea otter. Chief Chowig demands half of the sea otter since his people own the land and the surrounding waters.

Captain Orlov and forty men move onto the island and set up camp. Karana’s father tells his people to stay away from the camp. The villagers obey, but watch the Aleuts carefully; they suspect the men will leave soon leave soon, and the villagers want to make sure they get their share.

The Aleuts pack their ship without paying the village Karana and her older sister, Ulape, hide on the ledge of the canyon and watch as their father confronts Captain Orlov about their deal. A battle ensues between the hunters and the villagers. The Aleuts board their ship, leaving many of the village men dead, including Karana’s father. Life becomes very difficult; women begin taking over the work that was meant for men, and the memories of those that had passed cause people to become depressed.

The new chief, Kimki, goes by canoe to a nearby island, to seek help. When Kimki doesn’t return, the villagers plan to flee if another Aleut ship is sighted. Ships from the mainland arrive in the night though, and the people board them, fearful, but happy to be leaving the island. The villagers must hurry, a storm is coming and the ships cannot delay.

Karana, Ulape, and Ramo return to their hut and pack a few of their precious belongings; halfway to the ship Ramo realizes he forgot his spear. On board, Karana, looks for her brother; villagers in charge insist that Ramo is somewhere on the ship, but Karana knows her brother returned for his spear. Karana swims back to the shore, where she finds him. The two are left alone on the island.

Karana and Ramo find their huts ravaged by wild dogs, but manage to gather enough food. Ramo is eager to retrieve a canoe for fishing. Karana lets him go, but worries. When she cannot wait any longer, she searches for him. Karana discovers the pack of wild dogs, and her brother lying motionless among them. She scares the dogs away and picks up her brother, realizing he is already dead. Karana carries his body back to camp and vows to kill all the wild dogs.

Karana cannot stand to live in the village any longer; she burns it down and sleeps on the top of a large rock for safety. She decides to make a weapon, even though it is forbidden to women in her tribe. Karana builds a bow, arrows, and a spear. She feels secure with these new weapons and waits for an opportunity to kill the wild dogs.

Many seasons pass, and Karana is so lonely that she decides to retrieve a canoe and sail to the island like Kimki. She gets the canoe, but has difficulty steering and keeping leaks sealed. More afraid than ever, she decides that she belongs on the island. She builds a fence out of sea elephant bones and kelp, which will keep the wild dogs out, and creates shelves in the rocks to keep her food safe from mice and red foxes.

Determined to kill the wild dogs, Karana goes to their cave with her bow, arrows, and spear. She wounds the lead dog with a spear and shoots two more, before following the wounded dog into the cave. He is barely breathing. She carries him back to her house, and begins nursing him back to health. After several days, the dog begins acting like her pet; he waits for her to come home, listens to her, and stays with her inside the house. She names the dog Rontu.

Karana rebuilds her canoe and hides it in a cave, in case she ever needs to escape. Two summers later, the Aleuts come again. Karana hides in the cave with Rontu, fishing and gathering roots by night.

While Karana sewing a new skirt outside, Karana meets a young Aleut girl named Tutok. The girl tries to speak to Karana, but Karana knows this is an enemy and says nothing. After a tentative first encounter, Karana and Tutok spend the days together, learning each others language, laughing, and exchanging gifts. One day, Tutok does not return, and Karana finds the Aleut ship departing.

The Aleut never return to the island again. Rontu dies; Karana catches and tames another dog, Rontu-Aru, who she believes is Rontu’s son. Karana and Rontu-Aru have many happy times together, but Karana finds herself thinking more and more of Tutok and Ulape.

An earthquake hits the island, and Karana is nearly tossed from the cliff into the sea. She survives, but loses all her food, weapons, and canoes. Busy building a fire, Karana doesn’t notice a ship headed toward the island. A man walks along the shore calling for her, but Karana does not make it in time, and the ship sails away. Two springs later, the ship returns, and Karana is ready. Karana learns that the ship that had taken her people sank, and no one had returned for her. Karana sails away with Rontu-Aru, watching the dolphins and remembering all she has been through.


Essential Questions for Island of the Blue Dolphins

  1. What challenges did Karana face, and how did she overcome them?
  2. How did family tradition both help and hinder Karana’s survival?
  3. Is caring for others an important characteristic? Why or why not?

Island of the Blue Dolphins Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | Island of the Blue Dolphins Summary


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the book in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Island of the Blue Dolphins Plot Diagram

Island of the Blue Dolphins is told from the point of view of Karana, a teenage girl who lives with her tribe on an island in the South Pacific.


Exposition

Russian Aleuts come to Karana's island to hunt for otter pelts. The two peoples come to an agreement that allows the Aleuts to get pelts and keeps Karana's people safe.


Conflict

The Aleuts go back on the established deal. A bloody battle ensues between the Aleuts and the native islanders.


Rising Action

The conflict has made it too hard for the villagers to stay on their island. The villagers leave on a ship, but Ramo gets left behind. Karana leaps out of the boat and swims to shore, so her little brother would not be alone. The two siblings must work together to survive on their own.


Climax

Wild dogs attack and kill Ramo. In her grief, Karana burns down her village because she can't stand to be there by herself any more. She vows to kill all of the wild dogs. But when she gets the chance, Karana decides not to kill the leader of the pack of dogs and tames him. She names him Rontu, or Fox Eyes.


Falling Action

The Aleuts return to her island and Karana retreats to a cave. She makes a tenuous friendship with Tutok, an Aleut girl. Karana yearns for human company, even if not of her tribe. One day Tutok does not come at their normal meeting time, and Karana watches the Aleut ship sail away.


Resolution

Karana is rescued from her island and from her solitude. She has been alone on the island for several years. She discovers that the rest of her village did not survive the journey on the ocean.


Island of Blue Dolphins Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Russian Aleuts come to Karana's island to hunt for otter pelts. The two peoples come to an agreement that allows the Aleuts to hunt for pelts, keeps the tribe safe, and compensates the people of Ghalas-at. Soon, the Aleuts go back on the established deal. A bloody battle ensues between the Aleuts and the native islanders. The villagers leave the island, but Ramo gets left behind. Karana leaps out of the boat and swims to shore so her little brother would not be alone. The two siblings must work together to survive on their own. Wild dogs attack and kill Ramo. In her grief, Karana burns down her village because she can't stand to be there by herself any more. She vows to kill the wild dogs, but decides not to kill the pack leader and tames him. She names him Rontu, or Fox Eyes. The Aleuts return to her island and Karana retreats to a cave. She makes friends with Tutok, an Aleut girl. Karana yearns for human company, even if not of her tribe. One day Tutok does not come at their normal time and Karana watches the Aleut ship sail away. Karana is rescued from her island and from her solitude. She has been alone on the island for several years. She discovers that the rest of her village did not survive the journey on the ocean.

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Island of the Blue Dolphins.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Story Outline Storyboard Template
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION

Example

(Use this rubric or create your own on Quick Rubric.)





Copy Assignment

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Island of the Blue Dolphins Themes

In this activity, students will identify a theme of the novel, and support their choice with details from the text. One theme is friendship, and another is violence.


Friendship

Karana makes an unlikely friend in Rontu, the leader of the wild dogs who killed her brother. Another example is, Karana befriending Tutok, a descendent of the Aleutians who killed her father. A third example is Karana becoming friends with wild dogs, a sea otter, and birds.


Violence

Chief Chowig and the other men are massacred by Captain Orlov and the Aleuts. Another example of violence is Ramu being attacked and killed by wild dogs. The last example is when Karana decides that she will not kill any other animals.


Island of the Blue Dolphins Theme
Create your own at Storyboard That Karana makes an unlikely friend with Rontu, the leader of the wild dogs who killed her brother. Karana befriends Tutok, a descendent of the Aleutians who killed her father. Karana becomes friends with wild dogs, a sea otter, and birds. Chief Chowig and the other men are massacred by Captain Orlov and the Aleuts. Ramu is attacked and killed by wild dogs. Karana decides that she will not kill any other animals. EXAMPLE 1 EXAMPLE 2 EXAMPLE 3 VIOLENCE FRIENDSHIP