Whale Talk

Zgb9403e9287 t

A varsity letter jacket: it's exclusive, nearly unattainable, revered . . . and everything that's screwed up about Cutter High, as far as T. J. Jones is concerned. That's why T. J. is determined to have the Cutter All Night Mermen—the unlikeliest swim team a high school has ever seen—earn letter jackets of their own.

It won't be easy. For one thing, they don't even have a pool. They will fight for their dignity, they will fight with each other, and sometimes they will just fight. And then they will realize that a single moment can bring lifelong heartache or lifelong friendship. For T. J. and his crew of misfits, the quest may be far more valuable than the reward.

Curriculet Details
83 Questions
90 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 9-10th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining foreshadowing, indirect characterization, and references to Washington state history. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about first person point of view and theme. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of plot, character motivation, and structural writing techniques. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library

Chapter 1

This story is written in first person point of view. See below for more information about the types of point of view.  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
At this point, the narrator has shared some important details about his life. What detail has he NOT shared? 
Mark Fuhrman is a former police detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. He is known for his part in the O.J. SImpson murder trial, where he made derogatory remarks about African Americans and was ultimately convicted of perjury, or lying on the stand. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Several days after hearing Fuhrman on the radio, the narrator called the station. What does this say about him as a character? 
Because the narrator tells the reader so much about what he can do in this paragraph, and then finishes with the fact that he has never participated in high school sports, the reader can infer that he does not feel welcome at school. See below for more information about inferences.  (This annotation contains a video)
Tao is translated as "the way" or "the path" and is a Chinese philosophy that discusses how one should live one's life. It also discusses the dual existence of both good and evil. Pay attention, as some characters have both a good and an evil side, while others are purely one or the other.  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
When T.J. discusses his education, he reveals that 
Hoopfest, one of the biggest basketball festivals in the nation, features three player teams. See below for more information.  (This annotation contains a link)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Why might T.J. have heard of the term subdural hematoma while his mother tries a child abuse case? 
In an indirect way, the narrator reveals that he is friends with a teacher at the high school, one that competes with him athletically and now wants T.J. to participate in a new swim team. This is interesting because T.J. has described Simet up until this point as more of a friend then a teacher. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
T.J. says there are many benefits he found while working out. Which of the following is NOT a benefit he mentions? 
The Shroud of Turin is some fabric that it is believed to have been Jesus's burial shroud. It is imprinted with the image of a crucified man and is considered a very sacred object. If a letter jacket is compared to this shroud, it is very important to the students at the school. See below for an image of the shroud.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What do T.J. actions after seeing the interaction between Chris and Barbour say about T.J.? 
The way Chris speaks tells something about what he is thinking. Authors have two ways to tell the reader what characters think and feel, using either direct or indirect characterization. See below for more information about character development.  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
This sentence is an example of foreshadowing, where the author gives the reader a hint of what is to come. What might this foreshadow? 

Chapter 2

This represents an important idea in the novel, that it matters more how you live your life than how you die.  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What might be T.J.'s motivation here? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What does this detail say about Dan as a character? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
Based on what you know about root words, what does "collegiate" most probably mean? 
Although nothing in this paragraph would say it explicitly, because Tay-Roy is successful at school, T.J. will not want him. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Based on what T.J. has already told the reader about his interactions with Barbour, what is about to happen? 
For the school to have a "Lettermen's Club," having a letter jacket must be an important symbol at the school. See below for an image of what such a jacket might look like.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What will finding out that the Athletic Council and the Lettermen's Club have control over school policy do to T.J.? 
Read what T.J. says about Coach Benson. Because this is written in first person, you must take what T.J. says about people and think--what do his descriptions of Coach Benson say about T.J. himself? Also, keep in mind the theme of the co-existence of both good and evil. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What type of literary device is T.J. using here to describe the football players? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Why does T.J. want to give Chris a jacket? 

Chapter 3

Rick Marshall's attitude may be yet another reason why T.J. refuses to have anything to do with sports at the high school, since Marshall supports school sports and hates people who are different. How will Marshall react to this new swim team?  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
How does T.J. define a sport? 
Throughout the story so far, T.J. feels empathy for the downtrodden. In this case, the fawn symbolizes innocence. Watch for the parallel of the deer later in the novel. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
T.J. tried many avenues to save the fawn. What is one thing he did NOT try? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
Based on the speech Simet repeats when T.J. is "cranking up," what might "cranking up" mean? 
His mother is a lawyer and both parents were protesters in the 1960s. They are practiced at defying authority, something that definitely effected T.J.'s view on the world. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
What are the principal and T.J.'s father implying might happen at school? 
Here is T.J.'s motivation--that he feels empathy for others and standing up for them is standing up for himself. T.J. is striving to become a hero. What is a hero is a theme in this novel. See below for more information about theme.  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Although T.J. is talking about training, which incident might also fit this statement? 
Meeting the homeless man gives T.J. some perspective. But can he succeed? 

Chapter 4

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
What might this description foreshadow about Jackie? 
Bart Simpson, pictured below, was the protagonist cartoon character who was always causing trouble.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
Which of the following is the best summary of what Georgia says to T.J. about relationships? 
This is a historical allusion, or reference, to ancient Rome and the beginning of Christianity. To entertain the masses, Rome hired warriors to attack and kill opponents in the ring. Sometimes, their opponents were the early Christians. Which one would T.J. consider the gladiator and which the Christian?  
Compare Barbour to other heros in the story. Is he truly a hero? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
What theme does Carly's story about her past reflect? 
Here, Carly is acting in heroic fashion. She furthers the theme of what makes a hero.  
Because her mother won't stand up for them and won't fight back, she has failed her family. This furthers the theme of the importance of overcoming adversity. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
To T.J., his mom and Carly's are very different. What is one statement that is NOT true? 
At this point, the reader should be asking what happened to his father in 1968. The author is about to use the technique of flashback, when an earlier event is inserted into the normal chronology of a narrative.  

Chapter 5

Because she works for the attorney general, that means she is a prosecuting attorney, who works on behalf of the people to punish the guilty. 
Pay attention to this flashback, as it is the defining moment for his father. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
Explain why this flashback furthers the theme of overcoming adversity, by giving one piece of textual evidence that shows how the father tried to overcome what had happened. 
For T.J., his dad is a shining example of how you right a wrong. His father does everything he can to help the children around him, making him a hero in T.J.'s eyes. Note how this forwards the theme of what makes a hero. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
Based on context clues, what might "per diem" mean? 
The Far Side, a comic strip by Gary Larson, was known for its odd and quirky humor. See below for an example.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What does Simet's response to T.J.'s request say about him as a person? 
Play therapy is a type of therapy where disturbed children are encouraged to express their emotions and fantasies while supported by the therapist. One rule is that the therapist should never say no. Watch this short video for some background on why the author might include this scene in the novel. (This annotation contains a video)
Be aware that the following scene may be disturbing to both the reader and to T.J. 
One of the themes in this novel is that race impacts relationships. How has Heidi's stepfather's views on race impacted his relationship with her?  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
What do the incidents with the doll and with the soap tell you about Heidi's father? 
Because T.J. doesn't try to solve her problems but simply emphasizes with her, he may help Heidi realize that there is nothing wrong with being African American. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Who exactly is Rick Marshall? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Rick is terrible to Heidi in many ways. Which is one way that is NOT described in the novel? 
In other words, Heidi hates herself because she was hated by her stepfather Rick due to her race. The metaphor of "soul stealer" is a very powerful motivator for T.J. to defy Rick. Note the furthering of the theme of race impacting relationships, not only Heidi's with her father, but T.J.'s relationship with her. 

Chapter 6

Ch 1-5 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
At this point in the story, which character is MOST dynamic? 
From 1970 until 2001, this fort existed. Victoria Keenan won a court case against the Aryan Nation for its attack on her son Keenan. Subsequently, it was sold and later turned into a park. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What literary technique may be in play here? 
This is a picture of a classic Corvair, for some perspective.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What is T.J.'s goal for the team? 
Schollander was an Olympic swimmer, and he described Spitz, another Olympic swimmer, as one of the greatest swimmers. See this link to read the article.  (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter 7

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
What unusual thing has Andy revealed? 
As with all sports, an experienced coach can really improve an athlete. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What does this exchange between Simet and "Icko" say about Simet? 
This sentence further develops the theme that race impacts relationships. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Why does Andy Mott continue to get in trouble at school? 
Although T.J. pretends that he cares nothing for winning, he can't stand to be humiliated. How will this motivate him in the future?  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What type of characterization is this? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
This sentence clues the reader in that what happened to Chris is worse than being mocked every three weeks. When the author gives a hint to the reader of what is to come, this technique is called 
Note the flashback here. As T.J. reflects on just how bad it was to be Chris at this school, what might he reveal? 
What makes someone a hero is further developed in this chapter. Chris obviously thinks T.J. is one. 

Chapter 8

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
The boys have to overcome many obstacles in order to compete in their first swim meet. Which of the following is NOT a challenge they faced? 
Not only are they discovering who they are as swimmers, but also as a team. Will they support each other? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What does this section of indirect characterization demonstrate about Mott? 
Because the author chooses to use first person point of view, the reader must view the story through T.J.'s eyes. Since he doesn't know what they are thinking, neither does the reader. How might the story be different if it were in third person omniscient point of view? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
Based on context clues, what might "euphoric and rapturous" mean?  
Through indirect characterization, Simet reveals that he not only understands how to talk to Chris, but he also wants to make sure Chris is not frightened. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What type of characterization is used here? 
T.J. sees himself truly here. These statements help further develop the theme of what makes a hero. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
What does this exchange between T.J. and Mott reveal about the theme of "what makes a hero"? 
Andy Mott's hostility is explained here, as he reveals to T.J. that he was raped by his mother's boyfriend. 

Chapter 9

Remember that T.J. is on the school paper. As you read the article, ask yourself, who could have written this article? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What does this exchange between Simet and T.J. reveal about the character of Simet? 
This is an example of direct characterization. Although the author reveals what T.J. is feeling through some of what he says and does, this statement gives a name to his feelings. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
What incident is T.J.'s dad referring to here? 
Although Barbour doesn't know it, this is an example of verbal irony, where a character says the opposite of what he means. See below for more information about verbal irony.  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Predict: what will happen to the team? 
Because Simet cares about all of his athletes, he finds a way to individually help each one. This form of concern could make him a hero. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
What kind of connection does Georgia teach T.J.? 
Notice T.J.'s dad, making connections with Heidi. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Why does Georgia say she has brought Heidi to the right place? 
Writers will often use similes and metaphors to make connections with their readers. Even though you may not know what abusive men are like, you may be able to imagine a "gut-shot badger," a very colorful simile. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
How is T.J.'s reaction to Rich different then in previous encounters? 
Note the use of foreshadowing here. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
T.J.'s mom tells him many things about Rich that night. What is one thing she does NOT say? 

Chapter 10

T.J.'s dad can't forgive himself completely for the death of the child. Does this make him any less of a hero to T.J.? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
Summarize T.J.'s dad's advice in your own words. 
The symbolism of whales telling the truth should make the title of the novel clear. To be human, to be a hero, T.J.'s father must own all his emotions, not just the positive ones. Also, the theme of the existence of both good and evil is clear in this passage as well. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Based on the highlighted selection, which includes a metaphor, what can the reader conclude about the team's performance in swim meets? 
Just as everything is relative, so are the lives of his teammates. Watch this short book trailer below. Does it represent a fair summary of the novel?  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
Which of the following literary works is similar to Mott's story here? 
They are connecting in a new way, being honest as whales with each other. 
Fabio was a symbol of male beauty. See below for a picture.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 11

Ch 6-10 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What type of irony is used here? 
As he sees someone in trouble, what will T.J. do? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Which of the following characters is an older version of Mike? 
Note the foreshadowing here. And how will Carly take the idea that her friend can't take care of herself? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
T.J.'s mom has many reasons why T.J should leave Mike alone. Which of the following was NOT one of those reasons? 
To help T.J. develop as a hero, his mom attempts to help him have empathy for Mike. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
How is T.J. like Mike, according to his mother? 
All of the heros in T.J's life want him to see the same thing, that it is better for someone to save themselves than to wait to be saved. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
What does his dad say about women who are abused? 
Remember, whales symbolize truth. 

Chapter 12

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
This sentence foreshadows that 
Just as Heidi's mom, Kristen has gone back to Mike. 
Bobby Knight, pictured below, was a coach who was famous for getting extremely angry.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Why will Simet support the swim team receiving letter jackets? 
The Marshall plan is famous for rebuilding Europe after World War II. It is a pun because it is based on Alicia's last name, Marshall. 
Pay attention to Alicia's speech about what they say in therapy. In a way, hearing her talk is like hearing what Kristen Sweetwater might say one day. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What advice does Alicia give that echoes advice T.J. has been given earlier? 
The reader should infer here that Tay-Roy is interested in dating Kristen. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What does this exchange say about Carly and T.J.'s relationship? 
Chris has been transformed by the swim team experience. Why might the other teams be so supportive to him? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What type of literary device is "mermen's cocoon"? 
Because this exchange is very short, and surrounded by white space on the page, it emphasizes the importance of what occurs. The team will support him, and he won't argue, two huge changes from before swim season. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What literary technique is being used here? 
Just as with many of the abused people in this novel, Mott realizes that he had to help himself. Simet can't do anything to fix what has happened to all of them. He can only stand up to the Council on their behalf. Does this make him less of a hero? 

Chapter 13

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
Where else has the idea that "everything's relative" appeared in this novel? 
Parliamentary rules are one form of organization a meeting can have. They help dictate how meetings progress. Watch for words that might indicate this type of rule. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
So far in the meeting, there have been many examples of parliamentary procedures. Which of the following is NOT one? 
It might be better for T.J. not to get involved here. But is he capable of sitting quietly when he perceives an injustice? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Which of the team has potential to continue swimming? 
Note that sometimes "doing much better" is not being kinder to the people around you. To T.J., her behavior is justified. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What literary device is used here? 
Sambo is an insult. It's dictionary definition is just someone with mixed ancestry, but it has negative emotional meaning. There are two ways to look at words, their denotation, or dictionary definition, and their connotation, or emotional definition. See below and think about the denotation vs the connotation of the words shown.  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
How can the reader infer that swimming is important to the University of Washington? Use textual evidence to support your response. 
How has Mott changed since he first swam for the team? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
In some ways, this competition is the  
Shoeless Joe agreed to fix a White Sox game and deliberately lose. See the video below. How might Shoeless Joe truly be a hero?  (This annotation contains a video)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
Because of the first person point of view, the reader 
Note the use of simile here. This is the first time Jackie has spoken in the novel. His speech, therefore, is very significant.  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What literary device is used here? 

Chapter 14

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
T.J. is always trying to solve the problems of others. What will he do to ensure they don't go back to feeling alone? 
In other words, the Athletic Council has no legal standing to say that the team can't have letter jackets. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Why did T.J. lose the race? 
Imagine the contrast. Both T.J. and Simek know Chris has the heart and will to win. And now, David to Barbour's Goliath, he will take down the person who mocks him. Or so T.J. predicts. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
What technique is the author using here? 
Race has again impacted Heidi's relationship with both herself and her step father. It should be clear to the reader that Rich said terrible things to her about being African American, without the author having to tell you directly. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
Because the author is choosing to make this conversation model a real one, he avoids using words like "said." This lack speeds the action, but also makes it difficult to tell who is talking. Who has to have said this sentence? 
In other words, this is a place where racists hang out. What will happen? 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
These sentences foreshadow 

Chapter 15

Not only does Georgia know how T.J. works, she also cares for him. The reader can infer her love through indirect characterization. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
What Jackie says to Chris furthers the idea that 
The letter jacket may symbolize status to the other students, but it is meaningful to T.J. only in the fact that he is helping others. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
The swim team had many obstacles to overcome. Which of the following was NOT one of them? 
The Tao religion, that of the existence of both good and evil, is a key to this novel.  (This annotation contains an image)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Because of the heightened tension the author has introduced between these two teams,  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
What literary device is used here? 
Note the short sentence, surrounded by white space, to emphasize its importance. What will happen? 
Note the symbolic connection to the fawn, shot right under T.J.; an innocent he could not save.  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Because T.J.'s dad is always trying to earn forgiveness for accidentally killing a child, it is possible that 
By making the connection to Jesus, Christians believe died to save humanity from sin, T.J.'s dad is sure he will die. 

Whale Talk

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Where would T.J. go, now that his father is gone? 
Note that T.J. is speaking here of his adopted father who never knew he had a biological son. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
Based on his reaction, it is clear that the man at Hoopfest is 
Family is important in this novel, too. Sometimes it's more than biology; it might be the family of the heart. 
Will this request be the defining moment for T.J., when he finally lets go of the rage and need for revenge? 
Ch 11-16