Fishy Fun! Ocean Songs and Games for Primary Grades
I like a good theme, I won’t lie. For the past week or so I’ve been teaching ocean songs and underwater games to kindergarten and I wanted to share some of the things that have worked really well. Since it’s kindergarten I try and keep activities pretty short but do them frequently. So, we learned a poem, repeated it a bit, and then left it alone. The next day we came back to the poem and added actions. The next day the poem became a sung poem and we sang it several times. The next day we added a little game to it and on and on. The activity and poem itself was short, but we came back and used the same activity multiple times.
So, if you see an activity below that seems like it would only take a minute or two, you’re probably right. We sang many of these ocean songs multiple times throughout the week and expanded and added every time we tried them again.
Charlie Over the Ocean
I love singing this little echo song with kiddos because it’s easy to catch on and understand and it introduces them in to low sol. We get to talk a little bit about the difference between “see” and “sea” which their teachers really appreciate since “see” is a sightword AND because they’re talking about homonyms/homophones. I also love teaching “Charlie” to my kids because it has such a great history as a game song among the African American community. This is a song that kids might be able to take home and sing with parents or aunts/uncles or grandparents. Those family members might remember playing the game out on the playground or singing this song when THEY were in school.
The game is really simple and fun and works a lot like “duck, duck, goose.” The leader of the song sings “Call & Response” style as they walk around the circle. When they get to the lyric “can’t catch me” they tap the closest person and then run! If the tapped kid can’t catch the singer then they become the new singer.
I especially love this game procedure because it gives power to the leader of the song. One student sings out the main melody as a solo and the group echoes them as they walk around the perimeter. Kids like the game because it puts them in charge and lets them choose who runs behind them. I like it because It’s easy for me to listen and assess as they play the game. Since the solo singing is tied to the game, they are more likely to get up and walk around and do the singing. If they’re super shy I’ll sing WITH them while they walk around, but I tell them that to get to walk around and tap someone they have to do the singing for the call and response.
Fish, Fish, Little Fish
Then I grab out my little fish finger puppets (look below for information about where to get these little guys). We talk about how there are several colors and that you “Get what you get, so don’t be upset.” Sidebar, I hate “Git what you git and don’t throw a fit,” because 1) “git” isn’t a word and 2) Get and fit don’t actually rhyme. I’ve always hated it. It wasn’t until I took Orff Level I and my brilliant pedagogy teacher, Dena Byers, shared the gem “Get what you get, so don’t be upset,” that I had a replacement.
Anyway, back to the finger puppets! So I hand them out to each kid and they get to sing the song to their little puppet. We get to pretend to chomp them at the end of the song but don’t actually put them in our mouths (you really have to remind of this… sigh, the joys of kindergarten). Then we might leave the song for a while and do some vocal exploration as the fish goes up and down or we might go back and sing “Charlie Over the Ocean” with our little fish. Or depending on time and the situation we might go on to the circle game…
Kids sit in the circle while I put on my shark hat and grab my guitar. I play along and walk around as we sing (with a D and A7 chord pattern). When we get to the lyrics “Get into my mouth” I add a “CHOMP” sound at the very end. We talk about how sharks sometimes circle the food they want to eat. So we sing again and I walk around with my guitar throughout the song. On the “chomp/sharkbite” at the end I lean over and “pretend to bite” right above one student’s head. Then they stand up and get to be the shark.
We sing again and this time at the end of the song they lean over and “chomp” a new kid. Then the new kid stands up and they get to be the one kid to bite. We do this until everyone is in one big line and the very last kid to stand up either gets to “bite” me or they get to be the special lights person or door person or have some other special job since they didn’t get to “bite” a kid like all the rest of the class. There was a LOT of giggling going on during the shark bites. See below for proof.
1 2 3 4 5, Once I caught a Fish Alive
Once you’ve got the basic song learned you can come back to it anytime and change out the animal that you catch. One time it can be a fish and the next it can be a crab or an eel or a shark or an octopus. You can let kids decide what animal you want or you can choose fun things. I bought some amazing clip art a few years ago, printed it out on cardstock and laminated it.
When we do this song in my class, I let kids come up and pick an animal out of the folder and then we sing a verse incorporating whatever they chose. This was especially helpful when I taught at a school with a big English Language Learner population as it would help to expand their vocabulary. They build confidence as they get to stand up on their own and choose an animal from the folder. Letting them pick a pre-printed picture means they don’t have to think up an animal from their own memory (and then to translate its name in their head). You can write the name of the animal on the back of the cutout if you like and that can help kids with vocabulary as well. Here’s a link to the clip art pack I bought if you’re interested in doing the same activity!
Everything’s better with a Puppet
I really love using puppets with kiddos for about everything (see this blog post for more about puppets)! I mentioned above that you can get little finger puppets for the kids to use. A friend recommended these fun little rubber finger puppets to me. I bought a class set online and love them because they’re hard to break, easy to clean, and just the right size for kiddos. Here’s a link about where to find them.
I have been wanting this awesome octopus puppet for years! I’m contemplating doing an ocean program with kinder kiddos in the late spring. This would be the perfect helper, right? I might have to bump this up on my wishlist. Click here to see all the details.
I have a crab puppet named “Shelly” that I use to teach several of these songs. She talks to the kids about life on the bottom of the ocean and then helps to lead the songs or get kids’ attention. The puppet I use actually used to be part of an old math or reading curriculum that got replaced and tossed out. When my teacher leaders were pulling out and recycling the old books and curriculum I asked if I could keep the puppet. My “Shelly” is good for now but I definitely want to replace her with this awesome Folkmanis version.
Other Fun Resources for Ocean Songs
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