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Engaging Ocean Unit for First Grade

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Learning about the ocean can be a great way to incorporate a variety of standards into one engaging unit study. In this post, I’m going to give you a closer look at an ocean unit for first grade that you and your students will love. 

Engaging ocean unit

When to Plan an Ocean Unit

An ocean unit can be an engaging science activity for any time of the year. However, I find that it’s a great unit for the last couple of weeks of school. Many students have upcoming beach vacations on their minds already, so it just makes sense to learn about the ocean in class!

There is also a lot of extra energy in the classroom during the final stretch of the school year. An engaging thematic unit is a great way for students to channel some of that excitement into worthwhile learning activities. Learning all about the ocean is always a favorite in first grade!

Engaging Ocean Unit for First Grade

I know that time is precious at the end of the school year, so I wanted to share how easy it can be to put together a fun ocean unit for your students. Your students will be eager to become junior marine biologists as they dive into learning about the ocean.

Step One: Decorate

Transforming your classroom for an ocean unit is totally optional, but it’s an easy way to get students excited about the learning activities. At the end of the school year, anything that can get students more engaged in learning is a win in my book!

A table with a blue tablecloth and shark fin in a classroom with blue streamers

You don’t have to spend a lot of money or create over-the-top decorations to transform your classroom for an ocean unit. I’ve always found that some tablecloths and streamers from the dollar store are just right! It really doesn’t take much time at all to get a classroom set up for an ocean unit. A little bit goes a long way!

A classroom with blue streamers and an ocean theme displayed on the classroom TV

Step Two: Read Ollie’s Letter

The next step is to introduce your students to the ocean unit with a letter from Ollie the marine biologist. This letter comes with eight pictures of ocean animals. In the letter, Ollie asks students to classify the animals as either fish, reptile, invertebrate, or mammal. This gives them a purpose for studying ocean animals during the unit, which will increase student engagement. 

Letter to the class from Ollie the marine biologist

For another fun touch, you could even dress the part of a marine biologist when you read the letter to your class.

A smiling teacher dressed in a wet suit and flippers

I was able to borrow scuba gear from a friend for this. Otherwise, I would have found something in my closet that fit the ocean theme.

Step Three: Learn About Ocean Animals

Now that students are excited to help Ollie, it’s time to learn about the ocean animals so they can classify them. 

Pictures of ocean animals sorted by reptile, fish, invertebrate, and mammal

There are many different ways that students can learn about ocean animals. For example, you can use differentiated reading passages with text-based questions to help students practice reading fluency as they learn about ocean life. 

Jellyfish reading passage and recording sheet

As they learn new facts about each ocean animal, they can record what they’ve learned in a journal of ocean life observations. 

A student holds a completed ocean life observation journal

Step Four: Learn More About the Ocean

As students learn about ocean life, they will naturally be more curious about the environment where these animals thrive. 

Many students are fascinated to learn just how deep the ocean is! As they learn about the different layers of the ocean, it will give them more context about the animals they have been studying.

Eggs and recording sheets for a salty experiment

It’s also fun for students to learn that the ocean is salt water. This hands-on experiment gives students a chance to see if an egg will sink or float in salt water. This is a great way for students to learn more about the ocean environment.

There are many more engaging activities that you can do during an ocean unit to help your students learn more about this part of the planet. This could include labeling the oceans around the world, analyzing class votes about ocean-related topics, and completing ocean-themed crafts.

Step Five: Report Your Findings

After completing the ocean activities with your class, it’s time to report your findings to Ollie! Each student can write a letter back to Ollie, describing what they learned about ocean animals during the unit. This is a great way to motivate students to practice their writing skills! 

Step Six: Celebrate!

For one final touch, you can have Ollie write back to your students. This letter can thank them for their hard work classifying the ocean animals. It’s also fun to include a thank-you gift from Ollie. A bag of seashells from the dollar store is an easy and inexpensive option! 

Students are always so excited to receive a seashell from Ollie the marine biologist! When they take it home to their families, they’ll be eager to tell them all about the ocean unit. This is a great way to encourage students to use all of that new vocabulary they learned!

Printables for a First Grade Ocean Unit

Would you like to set up an engaging ocean unit for your first graders? I’ve compiled activities for a First Grade Ocean Unit that will save you lots of planning time! You can find all of the activities mentioned in this post (and more!) in one easy-to-download resource. The materials are carefully planned and ready to print, with detailed teacher directions and tips for all of the activities.

This printable ocean unit is full of standards-based activities that combine ELA practice with engaging science concepts. Your students will love learning more about ocean life during this fun thematic unit! 

You can find this resource in my TPT store if you’d like to take a closer look at everything included in this ocean unit.

Save This Ocean Unit for First Grade

Be sure to save this post for later! Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest. You’ll be able to quickly find this post when you’re looking for a way to keep your students engaged during the last couple of weeks of the school year.

An engaging ocean unit for 1st grade

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Stephanie Stewart

Stephanie Stewart

Hi, I' Stephanie! I’m always looking for new ways to put a creative twist on the standards and I love helping primary teachers do the same in their classroom. Think of me as your virtual teaching partner right down the hall. I can’t wait to share new lesson ideas, teaching tips, and engaging K-2 resources with you!

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Welcome

Hi, I’ Stephanie! I’m always looking for new ways to put a creative twist on the standards and I love helping primary teachers do the same in their classroom. Think of me as your virtual teaching partner right down the hall. I can’t wait to share new lesson ideas, teaching tips, and engaging K-2 resources with you!

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