Okay, everyones knows Take Me Out to the Ballgame right? Good!
So now sing with me: Take me out to the ocean, take me out to the sea! Help keep my kiddos engaged in class, so I can save my sanity!
It’s that time of year again…the last few weeks of school. Still LOTS of things to do but we all know that those lazy days of summer aren’t that far away!! So, what do we do to keep our little ones engaged while upping the fun factor just a little?!
In my room, our OCEAN unit has been my go-to-sanity-saver! It’s engaging and there are tons of opportunities for hands-on learning and outdoor fun. Plus, it ties in nicely with the upcoming summer holidays without actually talking about it and sending things into a tailspin 😉
We start off with the ‘delivery’. The delivery of a bundle of books for a new theme in our classroom is always an exciting event! As expected, my kiddos dove right into the pile of ocean books. Had it been a warmer day (I will not go on a tangent about how cold our ‘spring’ has been here…even though I reeeeeealllllly want to!), I would’ve grabbed our little pool of books and headed outdoors! Perhaps you live somewhere where the sun is actually providing you with heat and you could give your little ones some outdoor reading time. We went with Plan B…reading in our room while imagining we were at the beach!
Of course, our weekly chant also ties in with the new theme. This one is awesome because it’s to the tune of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’…doesn’t get much more summery than that! Warning though: It will be stuck in your head for a loooooong time. Worth it though as the kids love it!
Grab a copy of the Ocean poem here!
My little ones also create their own ocean books during the unit. It’s a great school-home connection since they can take them home and share their learning! Another bonus here is that they become quite independent with the pages so get this: I can actually do individual assessments while they work on their books!
Yuuuuuuup!!!! You heard that correctly…I can work with kiddos at my table without a ton of interruptions. Full disclosure here, there will always be the odd emergency. Ya know, things like lost teeth. I don’t have the stats to back it up but I’d say that the the highest likelihood of a first grader losing a tooth is 1-during snack (makes sense) 2-while I’m in the middle of a reading assessment (whhhhyyyy?). Truth.
Anyways, I loooooove the ocean books because once we’ve done a couple of the animal pages together, they can carry on independently. Annnnnnd they enjoy it because they are fascinated by all things ocean. Yay! Happy kiddos, happy teacher!!! Double yay when it happens during the last weeks of school. #WeGotThis
We start out with the Thinking About Ocean Life page to get their schema going. They looooove saying that word! I put up the vocabulary cards for the unit which will stay up as a reference for them. They also help my little ones who have a hard time coming up with ideas for this page. They have the option to simply draw and label a few creatures that they’ve either seen or learned about.
As we learn about individual ocean animals, we record the information on anchor charts. I’ve found it useful for first graders to follow this format: Key Words, Important Information & Fun Facts. It takes some practice and modeling at the beginning but once they get the hang of it, it’s smooth sailing!
The ocean book pages follow the same format so my little ones eventually move from using the anchor charts to sorting the information independently. I think it’s such an essential skill and I hope that laying the foundation early on helps them out down the road! Using the familiar format also supports my little ones who can become easily overwhelmed with open-ended writing activities.
Side note: I do laminate these charts so I can reuse them. Teaching in an immersion program means I have two groups of first graders to it’s helpful not to have to make 2 copies of each chart. Bonus is I can use them for multiple years. Unfortunately, our laminator is doing some funky things right now and the first chart that I laminated is a bit of a mess. Hurts my eyes to look at so I decided to spare you here. You’re welcome!!
A WHALE OF A TALE
We have some BIG fun with our learning about whales! First, I show them some whale ‘facts’ and they have to decide if they’re True or False. I show the slides on the SmartBoard and we go through the questions as a class. Here are a few of them:
This generates some fun discussion and they’re eager to find out if their answers were correct. Next, we watch this awesome video to learn about these majestic creatures.
He also has another great video for SHARKS here! Love his ‘Fun Facts about Animals’ videos!! They’re short but packed with bitesize bits of information that my first graders can retain. Highly recommend for K-3 kiddos 🙂
We take our Whale of a Tale one step further by making True/False booklets. My kiddos get a kick out of taking them home to quiz their families. After we watched the video and figured out the correct answers, they chose the 4 that they thought were the ‘trickiest’ and wrote them in their booklets.
Of course, we needed to make our own little whales to go home with the books! These little cuties caught my eye on Pinterest. The instructions aren’t in English but the photos on the website clearly show the steps and it was easy to figure out. Prep was easy-peasy as I just sliced up the papers and we were good to go!
My kiddos wanted to create an ocean mural so we decided to do some painting! They each chose 1 (or 2 or 3 😉 ) creatures to draw and then trace with a black marker. It was amazing to watch them take their time researching their animals and trying to make them as realistic as possible! Then they painted away! It was messy and fun!!
We’re still putting the mural together but here are a few highlights!
So that’s a little snapshot of some of our ocean fun! I’m working on surprising my kiddos with an outdoor water table with some ocean creatures (of the plastic variety, of course). While the last few weeks of school can be exhausting, it’s also the the last chance we have to make memories with our little ones. For me, the ocean unit is the perfect balance! What do you do during the final weeks? Let me know in the comments…we’re all in this together!
Love from my classroom to yours,