When I began to put together a unit for my Kindergarten class I usually tried to begin with a few simple facts that I wanted them all to learn about the subject. Then it was easy to organize the books, projects and activities that I wanted to use, to support these important facts. My Ocean unit evolved and changed over the years, but basically I wanted the children to learn that ocean water is salty and has waves, there are lots of fish and animals in the ocean, boats travel in the ocean, shells come from the ocean, and there are many plants growing in the ocean.
I put these words into the pocket chart at the front of my classroom.
We read and reread these sentences throughout the unit. In my files I had lots of different versions of these sentences that had fewer words, or simpler sight words, depending on the time of year I presented the unit, and the readiness of my class. Sometimes each sentence began – The ocean has waves, The ocean has fish, etc. Another version was – Waves are in the ocean, Fish are in the ocean, etc. I was able to reinforce specific sight words by including them in these sentences. Reading pocket charts like this gave us great opportunities to talk about things like spaces between the words, all kinds of punctuation, using picture cues, pointing to the first letter of each word, etc.
The children each made a book with one page for each of these sentences. Because we read and reread the pocket chart, every child was successful at reading their book.
To illustrate this cover the children drew a fish on a separate paper, an did a blue paint wash over it. Then they cut it out – outside their crayon lines and glued it on the cover of the book. Their books were already stapled with the Title on the top of the cover.
When I typed the words for the book I left 2 spaces between words, to help the children see the individual words. Every day each child read his/her book to me, one at a time, pointing at the words. For this page I gave them 3 colors of paper in graduating sizes, they cut the waves and added details. Along with this we did some experiments with salt water and we made a wave in a bottle – using mineral oil, blue food coloring and water in a large soda bottle.
I picked about 6 types of fish that I wanted the children to be able to recognize and identify. Roxie Heart helped me teach about them.
I got my information from simple books about fish. Here are examples of what I taught about different fish:
Zebra fish can change colors
Puffer fish swallow water or air and puff up to scare off other fish
Sawfish cut up other fish into little pieces to eat them
Flounder are flat fish that like to lie on the ocean floor, both eyes move to one side of their body
Lantern fish have lights along the sides of their bodies
Roxie came and talked about the facts and names of different fish, then I showed them simple drawings to reinforce these facts. After that we read the information book, noticing where Roxie learned her facts. After reading we tried to remember all the facts Roxie shared with us. Then I asked them to draw and write about 3 kinds of fish.
On this page of our book we used scrap construction paper to make 3 of the fish we learned about, adding details to show which fish they were, and then they labeled them phonetically.
We live in an area of Michigan with lots of lakes, so we talked about boat safety too. We read books about different kinds of boats and did activities with float and sink, etc. This boat opened up to show a passenger wearing a life vest inside.
We read Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab and on the shell page of our book we made a hermit crab, and added all the things that were in the book, labeling with phonetic spelling.
I loved the conversation that went on as they tried to remember all the things the Hermit Crab added to his shell. If they really couldn’t remember them all they could go back and look at the book. We talked about how good readers go back and re-read if they can’t remember a fact; but I wanted them to try to remember on their own first.
For the last page of the book we used pieces of crepe paper or strips of tissue paper as seaweed.
Here are the words for this book
I used one of Dr. Jean’s songs to teach the names of major oceans, here are the words:
Here is the song to print:
One of the books I read was Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen. It was a good story to reinforce characters, I also used it for Writer’s Workshop when we were talking about story endings.
We also sang the song There’s A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea. After the children knew the words we made a flip books. I cut the verses apart, each part was a different length and I stapled them together into a little book – then the children added the pictures that matched each verse.
Each year I offered 2-3 parent/child activity days when I asked every child to bring an adult to school for a few hours. I tried to include activities across the curriculum to give parents some ideas about what the children are learning through fun projects, and to give them some ideas of things they could do at home. Oceans was one of the themes I sometimes used for parent/child days. I tried to vary the themes different years because I often had repeat parents. Every year I did one evening activity that was geared more to things Dads might like (I know that is stereotypical but we did get more Dads at night.) The evening themes rotated between Cowboys, Outer Space and Pirates. Some of the pirate and ocean activities overlapped. I am sharing these ideas because you could use most of them as a center or activity in the classroom, most of them don’t require a parent’s help.
Here is the invitation for our Ocean Day.
When the parents and children arrived they got a check-off list of activities.
Here is a printable copy
Here is a short explanation of these centers:
I made 3 sided signs that gave directions for each activity to set at each center. Here are copies of some of the directions that we used.
I also saved some various recording sheets and masters that I used for these activities. I hope you might find something you can use.
For the food chain we made a string of linked paper chains, and glued on increasing larger fish from the bottom to the top, and added this word as the top.