Oh summer! How I love you, and guess what? Nothing screams summer more than day at the beach. The beach is my happy place, and I'm not sure who enjoys an ocean themed teaching week more, me or the kids! Since oceanography is taught in fifth grade in our state, this theme is is a must for us. For this reason, I'd like to share with you a very thorough choice for ocean studies, Exploring the Deep Dark Sea by Gail Gibbons, which is typical Gail Gibbons nonfiction...thorough and descriptive.
Did you know that the ocean floor is as deep as 36,000 feet in some places, includes mountains and has miles of flat space too? This book follows the job of an oceanographer and shares information about each of the ocean zones. It shows students the types of wildlife found in each zone and even shares the history of oceanography in a timeline.
For some students, understanding ocean concepts is a challenge. I think beginning a unit with a clip like The Magic School Bus Takes a Dive or another oceanography video is a great way to introduce the topic.
Before introducing this book, it's important to get your students to activate their schema as it relates to the ocean. What experiences have they had? What have they seen? You can bring in sand and shells, pictures of sandcastles, or audio recordings of ocean waves, but most importantly, get your students talking with each other to share their discoveries and ideas. These pages are intended for use prior to reading. I recommend you preteach important vocabulary too.
Once your students are warmed up and ready to explore, this is the perfect opportunity to explain reading strategies or skills needed to best comprehend the text content. This is a heavy book with challenging vocabulary. Yet, the text features make it much less challenging. Using text features in nonfiction is very important, and by using them. students will learn how animals have adapted to survive in different depths of the ocean as well as land features that relate to the ocean floor. I've included an anchor chart for group discussion and a column notes form for students to record their understandings during reading.
Often, with complicated text in particular, a second reading is needed. This organizer can be used to help your students record what they learn about each zone of the ocean (Sunlight Zone, Twilight Zone, The Dark Zone, The Abyss, and Trenches). They will be fascinated by the types of animals found in each.
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There are so many options with an ocean theme from projects, to great literature, writing opportunities, and even outdoor play. I started this Pinterest board last year, and whether you teach oceanography in science or just want to have a little ocean fun at the beginning or ending of school, I'm sure you'll find it helpful.
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