Wednesday, June 11, 2014

     Summer is here and time to dive into the OCEAN!  

     What a perfect time to study the ocean and beach!   We'd like to share some of our favorite activities in our ocean/beach thematic unit.
     When starting a new unit of study we begin by building a “community” bulletin board.  Everyone in the class contributes in creating the habitat.  For the ocean, we start with  a blue background and add large clumps of seaweed for inspiration!  Step one involves brainstorming all the living things that might be found in  the ocean.  Next, each student is given a white piece of paper with instructions to completely fill it with their drawing.  We found they have success if they first draw their “creature” in pencil and then color it with crayons or colored pencils.  When it is complete, they cut around their drawing and all the pieces are stapled to the blue background.  When the board is complete, the whole class says, “It’s alive!” as we marvel at our beautiful ocean scene.
This is a close-up picture of a small part of the bulletin board.
 Parent participation is always welcomed throughout the school year. Early on, we send a letter asking parents if they would be willing to share their talents, hobbies, skills, and professions with our class.  This is always optional but the parents love to be part of their child’s learning experiences.  When our ocean unit starts, we are amazed to find life guards, fishermen, boat owners, snorkelers, scuba divers, etc. all willing to come in and share!
For example, one parent brought in all the gear necessary to go scuba diving and snorkeling.  We pushed back the classroom furniture to clear a large space.  The students had fun putting on the flippers and snorkeling gear.  They even tried carrying a air tank and discovered it was quite heavy.  They pretended to go scuba diving with the carpeting being the ocean floor.  We placed some large seashells around for them to pick up.  What an experience!
     Ready for a GOOEY slightly smelly hands-on Experience?  Bring in a whole large fish from the grocery store (yes, with the head still on!) and use it to look at the body parts (bones, gills, fins, eyes, etc.) The boys LOVE this!  It is great for  generating describing words (ie. smelly, slimy, and slippery!)  We then do a rubbing placing paper on top of the fish and rubbing a soft pencil over it to notice the scales.  Have the students write what they learned about a fish! This activity can only last a few days of course! 
     As we continue to study about the ocean many discussions pop up which lead into writing projects for the whole class.  Here are a few of the class book covers we use to motivate our students.   
       In making the cover for The Message, use a piece of colored cardstock and cut the bottle shape out before laminating.  Here’s the tricky part….as you are SLOWY laminating, slip a little piece of paper in so it will be somewhere near the middle of the bottle. You might want to STOP the laminator so you can slip the word under the film!   (We wrote the word HELP on the note.)  We talk about why someone would send a message in a bottle and what it might say. Then they’re off and writing!

    In making this book cover, Deep in the Sea, put aluminum foil  around the porthole to give it a metallic look.  An ocean scene appears in the center of  the porthole showing the  bottom of the sea.  Remember to cut out the top part of the porthole before laminating so the clear film will give the feeling of a piece of window glass.  Place a blue piece of paper as the first page of the book so it will appear blue behind the porthole.  We talk about submarines and other types of diving boats that would have portholes to view the ocean.   The kids just love looking through both the bottle and the porthole when looking at their class books.  (Helpful hint:  If you don't put your name or classroom number on the cover you can replace the students' writings each year and reuse the covers! Time saver!!)
       Do a lot of Read-alouds with Ocean books to build background knowledge.  Students can write either fictional stories or non-fiction mini-reports about what they learned and what they saw (if you happen to live near an ocean!) or could see in the deep blue sea. Use your imagination!  And of course, most everyone has seen Finding Nemo so they have that for a reference point!  
This DOWNLOADABLE file contains a class book cover and 3 styles of themed writing paper.  Click {here} to find it! 
   We conclude our thematic study with individual ocean scenes.   Each student is given a piece of blue tag board.  Students either make new sea animals or reuse the ones they stapled on the community board.   Green construction paper is used to make their seaweed.
BEFORE gluing anything each student should draw a wiggly line at the top of their paper for the waves and a line about 2 inches from the bottom to create the ocean floor.  Once students have all their pieces,  they are ready to add the REAL sand and shells to their paper.
    SAND:  We have found the best way to manage the sand is to use a box to contain it. The paper is "painted" with white glue using a paint brush.  Place the blue paper into the box.  Students  scoop up some sand and sprinkle it over the glue. Lightly shake off the excess.  Place the paper on a flat surface and add REAL shells (use small ones and LOTS of glue!).  You might want to limit the number of shells (3-5) you give to each student as they will go crazy with the shells!  Elmer's glue works well and dries clear.   Sand and shells can be found at any craft store.  There is usually enough sand and shells to do this many times in the coming years so the cost is fairly minimal.   Glue on the sea creatures and their beautiful ocean scenes appear!  This art project is something they will treasure! 

     After studying about ocean life we have a “celebration”!  It was NOT a party as we can only have 3 parties a year.   However there is no limit to the number of  “celebrations” a classroom can have!!  We serve blue jello in clear cups with gummy fish.   Fish sticks, small popcorn shrimp and clam chowder round out our Ocean “celebration” meal.  
(You can see our ocean community bulletin board in the background.)
                              Here is a FREE game you might enjoy using with your Ocean studies.  
It comes with EDITABLE cards so ANY content can be added: sight words, math facts, your choice!


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