Pearson Adult Learning Centre Home
Pearson Adult Learning Centre
  Weekly Feature (December 23, 2007)

Learning to Write with "March of the Penguins"
by Rick


Recently, my English class watched the documentary film “March of the Penguins”. There is a lot of information in this film, and it can be difficult to decide which details to use when asked to write a single paragraph on the topic. There are two things to be aware of when writing a paragraph.

One consideration is that although all paragraphs may have a similar structure (topic sentence, supporting detail sentences, concluding sentence), there are five or six different types of paragraphs that have different purposes.

Some explain, others summarise, some tell a story, some compare or contrast, some describe and some persuade. Choosing your purpose will help you decide what transitions are appropriate and which ones are not. A good understanding of the purpose will also help you decide which information is relevant and which information is off-topic. Editing will become easier. A second point to remember is the benefit of good planning.

A good graphic organizer can assist you in your planning and make the writing a breeze. (Note that all links in this paragraph are in PDF format) Venn Diagrams are useful for comparison/contrast paragraphs. For descriptive paragraphs a Sense Chart may be helpful. If you wish to tell about an event such as a holiday or wedding, try using a Five Ws Chart. Persuasive paragraphs can be planned effectively with a Persuasion Map. A paragraph organised in time order such as a short story (How I Spent My Vacation) or process (How to Make a Cake) can be planned with the Sequence Chart or Step Chart. After you have narrowed your topic, think of these additional considerations.

Here is a variety of different paragraph answers to the question: “What did you learn about penguins?” Note that all have the same organisation, but the information chosen for the supporting details and the transitions between sentences are different.



The Challenges of Breeding (Summary)

Penguins face many challenges as they struggle to raise their chicks. To begin with, the winter in Antarctica is long and dark. Winter begins in March and continues until November, and for much of the time the sun does not rise. Furthermore, the storms are some of the coldest, windiest meteorological events on the planet. Huddling in a tight group helps them survive. Having enough food is a second challenge. The breeding ground is about 70 miles from the ocean which provides their food. Males survive without food for almost four months. They keep a small amount of stored food in their bodies to help the chicks survive until the females return. If a female does not return the chick will surely die. After hatching the egg, the weakened females must journey more than 70 miles to get their first meal. Understandably, many penguins do not survive the breeding season. A final difficulty they face is predation. When the adult penguins return to the ocean they often become the prey of seals or whales. Meanwhile, carnivorous birds such as the petrel threaten the young chicks. Clearly, the breeding season is not an easy time.

198 words


The Penguin Life Cycle (Narrative)


The life cycle of the penguin is one of the most interesting in all of nature. After its parents make a 70 mile journey from their ocean home to the breeding grounds, they mate. The parents stay together at the breeding grounds until the egg is hatched. After the female lays the egg, she leaves and returns to the ocean to get more food for herself and her chick. Just before she leaves, she gives the egg to the father who protects it for the next four months. After two months, the egg  hatches, but the male continues to protect the offspring for another two months. Although the father cannot get more food, he stores some for his chick. The chick spends more time between the legs of his mother after she returns. Eventually, the chick is able to survive away from its mother, so the mother returns to the sea before the father comes back. The parents make several trips back and forth. By November, the chicks have matured a bit more and are able to return to the sea themselves. They remain at the sea until they are five years old. At this time they are ready to make the same march their parents did five years earlier. The life of the penguin has many different stages.

219 words


Penguin Facts (Summary)


Penguins are specially adapted birds of Antarctica. Although they are unable to fly, they are able to walk upright on two feet or slide on their bellies as they move across the polar landscape. They have white feathers on their bellies and black feathers on their backs, so they are easy to see on the snow. Fortunately, there are not many predators on land that might attack them. I think their colouring helps them survive in the ocean where they spend most of their adult lives and where they are prey for sea lions and whales. When they are in their ocean habitat, they eat fish, krill and jellyfish. To do this they can dive up to 1700 feet and hold their breath for up to 15 minutes. They can survive up to four months without food, which is important during the breeding season. Penguins reach adulthood when they are five years old. At this time they are finally ready to make the march to their birthplace to reproduce. They produce one egg each breeding season and must care for it 24 hours a day for many months. Penguins live for about ten years.

194 words


Humans and Penguins  (Comparison)


         After watching “March of the Penguins” I realise there are many similarities between penguins and humans. For instance, when penguins mate they are monogamous. To raise their chick, males and females work together. Although this pairing may only last for one year, this is often the same situation of many human relationships. In addition, like humans penguin parents are often forced to leave their young for long periods to obtain food for their family. Furthermore, males must invest a lot of time and energy to help their offspring survive. Without male support, a baby penguin is doomed. Another similarity is that both humans and penguins show affection. In the film it was clear that males and females showed affection for each other. Moreover, when a mother lost her chick after a harsh storm, she was obviously upset. She even tried to steal another female’s chick to replace the one she lost. Similarly, we hear on the news about distraught mothers kidnapping infants to replace a lost loved one. Finally, many of the scenes in the show reminded me of similar human scenes. Penguin chicks strolled with their mothers or fathers, males would horseplay or show off for the females, females would fight over males and the tribe would work together to survive against the violent winter weather. Sometimes the penguins seemed more human than we are.

225 words




Visit Last Week's Feature:

Time Well Spent

Weekly Feature Index
(Includes all 2002 to date Weekly Features with descriptions)


Return to Top



Visit our Contact Us page to send email to the centre.
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 Pearson Adult Learning Centre, New Westminster School District 40
Web Site Created by The Educated Web
Last modified: July 31, 2009