I love octopi. I worked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography when I was a student at UCSD and learned to make friends with them. They’re fascinating. They’ll spout water to welcome you once they get to know you, and they will wrap their tentacles right around your wrist while you pet them and try to climb up into your arms if you’re not careful. If you’re not that much of a fan, you might just include them in your general ocean theme.
A couple of the under the sea bulletin board sets contain an octopus:
Add Carson’s Big Borders Ocean Waves for oceanic fun. You can also create an octopus yourself with a big circular or oval (more realistic) head and eight tentacles. Carson Dellosa used to do a very clever octopus job chart with each octopus arm reaching out to a job, and you could do that, too.
Get dramatic with Octopus – Vinyl Wall Art Decal Stickers Decor Graphics and Safari LTD Incredible Creatures Giant Pacific Octopus. Folkmanis has a very sweet blue Octopus Puppet. Use the Melissa & Doug Octopus Tote Bag to carry your story time supplies or math manipulatives. The big eyed octopus will grab your students’ attention while you unpack your items.
One thing you should should certainly include in the bag is dried squid. It’s a popular snack, and your kids will probably enjoy it. Where I live, we can get it at the Asian grocery stores. Point out to students that this is squid or cuttlefish rather than their cousin the octopus, though people do also eat octopus. I’ve never brought calamari into the classroom, but if you try it, let us know how it works out.
If you think it might be uncomfortable to eat squid with smiling octopi all over your bulletin boards, you can always try octodogs:
Set out some octopus books, too:
- Tickly Octopus by Ruth Galloway is about an octopus who likes to tickle other fish. Frankly, we prefer Audrey Wood’s The Tickleoctopus, which is out of print but might still be in your library. Our friend Miss Margaret always reads this with the help of a pink feather boa , another good thing to put in your story time bag.
- How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures by Ruth Hellers is a great book about camouflage.
- Angry Octopus: A Relaxation Story is a story about anger management, leading kids through muscle by muscle relaxation. Plenty of kids need help “being the boss of the anger,” as this book puts it, and everyone can benefit from a little relaxation at some point in the day.
- Octopus Hug is a lovely story about families, and a good example of metaphor.
- An Octopus Is Amazing is a fact-filled book for early readers.
- A charming fantasy story by Cynthia Rylant: The Octopus
- Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate is an excellent resource for background info and photos.
Once you’ve got the octopus ambience established, it’s time to bring in some curriculum connections. We certainly like to study the specific subject of our theme, but we also like to study things we were going to study away and hook them up, just for fun. Here are some octopus connections we like:
- Octopi, squids, cuttlefish, and the nautilus are all cephalopods, from the Greek cepha (head) and pod (feet). This is a great excuse to study Greek word roots, isn’t it? Click on the link in the previous sentence to learn about cephalopods and see lots more Greek word roots, or play Scholastic’s It’s Greek to Me game. More serious interactive games with both Latin and Greek roots can be found at Vocabulary University and Study Stack.
- An octopus unit is a great time to work on the 8s math fact families.
- Octopi are nocturnal animals. Click to see our lesson plans and links for a study of nocturnal animals.
- “Octopus” is a variation on “Red Rover” from Eldrbarry. Have students line up in two lines across from one another with a space in the middle. Put one student in the middle to be the octopus. The octopus calls out “Fish! Fish! Come [hop, crawl, or other form of locomotion] in my ocean!” The other students must try to cross the “ocean” only by moving in the specified manner. The octopus, moving in the same way, tries to catch them. All who are caught become part of the octopus, holding hands so that the octopus has plenty of tentacles.