Ocean Animals Unit: Books and Activities for Primary Learners

This photo highlights a variety of ocean animals crafts, reading activities and writing activities that are part of my ocean animals unit!

The deep, blue sea, and ocean animals are such fun topics to explore with primary learners. Whether you cover this topic in the summertime, or any other time of year, it’s bound to wow your kids! Ready to be inspired? Come along for a roundup of some of my favorite books and activities for teaching an ocean animals unit in the primary classroom.

Ocean Animals Unit in the Classroom

Do you have a favorite classroom theme? As someone who is a big fan of thematic teaching, this is a tough question for me! But, I will say that ocean animals are right up there at the top! This engaging classroom theme is filled with fun topics that are always a big crowd-pleaser. Whether you want to explore many different sea creatures, or simply focus on a few – there’s no shortage of topics to “dive” into!

This image shows an example of ocean animals videos you can share with your students.

Whenever we start a new theme in the classroom, I like to set the tone with a fantastic introduction. There are many different ways to do this and I’ve used them all! Sometimes we’ll start out with a group discussion to uncover what children already know about this topic. This is especially fun if it’s a familiar topic for your students, as they may have personal stories or experiences to share.

Another great option is to use educational videos. In this technology-heavy era, students love watching and learning with the help of videos. And the good news is that there are TONS of wonderful resources out there you can use in your classroom. I found this great playlist of Ocean Animals Videos from National Geographic on YouTube. The playlist is packed with short, 1.5-minute videos that will ignite curiosity in your room as you begin to explore this topic!

No matter what methods you choose to introduce this topic, consider making some anchor charts with your kids as you do. These will come in handy for future reference as you move through your ocean animals unit and work on writing prompts, graphic organizers, and other assignments.

Using Books to Introduce an Ocean Animals Unit

When it comes to choosing books for this topic, I like to mix it up! I use both fiction and non-fiction options. Since there is so much to cover with this theme, you can easily mix in both! The non-fiction books will come in handy as you and your students explore the characteristics of ocean animals. And the fiction storybooks are sure to make students smile as you tie the whole unit together!

My Favorite Ocean Picture Books

Ultimate Oceanpedia by Christina Wilsdon is sub-titled as “The Most Complete Ocean Reference Ever”. I have to say – it really delivers on its promise! Inside this Nat Geo Kids’ book, you’ll find TONS of amazing facts that you and your students will love exploring together. Not only will students learn about a variety of ocean animals, but they’ll also learn about the incredible ecosystem beneath the sea and how it impacts the world.

This image highlights some great read alouds about ocean animals that you can share with students like "The Pout Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean" and "Welcome Home Whale."

In One Tidepool by Anthony Fredericks, rhyming storytelling is used to snag engagement. Students will learn about ocean animals, tidepools, and the vast world of marine life. This book is written in a playful tone that students will love and uses plenty of bright and colorful illustrations to capture their interest.

Welcome Home Whales by Christina Booth is sure to be a classroom favorite! Students will follow the story of a young boy who dreams of a special whale’s call as she enters the harbor. He is the only one who can hear this rare whale’s call. Follow along to see the story unfold and illustrate to students how whales welcome their calves into the world.

The Pout-Pout Fish Cleans Up The Ocean by Deborah Diesen is a silly story that is a great addition to your collection! In this book, children will watch and listen as they follow the adventure of the Pout-Pout fish. He finds that the ocean is a BIG mess! What will he and his fellow fish friends do? Read this book to open the discussion of why we should care for the ocean and all of the amazing creatures within it!

More Ocean Animals Books

Keep in mind friend, this is only a few of my favorite books on this topic! I actually have a huge list of favorites on Amazon! There you will find tons of inspiration for your ocean animals unit! No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a little something for everyone. Oh and if you’re looking specifically for books about sharks, head over to this post!

Ocean Animals Unit Activities

As I mentioned before, this is one of my favorite themes, so you better believe I have lots of activity ideas to go along with it! In my Ocean Animals Thematic Teaching Unit, you’ll find over 1600 pages of learning resources!

This photo shows sea turtle activities. Students can do a turtle craft and learn about the turtle life cycle using this resource.

This unit is jam-packed with so many fun activities and centers that your students will love. Inside you’ll find:

  • Mini Readers
  • Vocabulary Tracing Pages
  • Thematic Posters & Writing Prompts 
  • Writing Craftivities 
  • Literacy Centers
  • Math Games & Centers
  • Color by Code Activities and much more!

This resource is a one-stop-shop when it comes to easily planning your ocean animal activities. Since there are so many different activities included, you’ll be able to mix and match to create your very own lesson plan tailored to your group. Differentiate easily by skill level, assign activities to small groups, centers, and more! I know you and your students will love the variety included in this resource.

Shark Activities

This photo features shark activities that are included in my all about sharks unit like a shark craft, writing activities and literacy centers!

Are you planning to explore sharks in-depth as you learn about ocean animals? If so, I know you’ll LOVE my comprehensive All About Sharks Unit! This resource aims to blend ELA and science standards to provide a fun learning experience like no other. This unit is another jam-packed resource that’s filled with graphic organizers, mini readers, writing activities, a cute craft and so much more! You’ll even find math and literacy activities to help tie your whole shark theme together.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the topic of sharks, this resource is a simple way to do so. I love using these activities in a whole group teaching format with students so that we can discuss. They also come in handy as you break off into small groups and centers. This unit is the perfect all-in-one resource to use if you plan to spend some time on this topic for “Shark Week”. For a more detailed look at exactly how I use these resources, be sure to take a peek at this post!

Shark Bulletin Board

This shark themed bulletin board is a great addition to any ocean theme.

If you’re anything like me, you probably enjoy some cute, but simple classroom decor. I’m all for changing up how our classroom looks with each theme, but I also don’t want to spend all of my time swapping it out. Can you relate? If so, you’ll love this cute Shark Bulletin Board!

It includes editable student tags, title letters, student book recommendation writing prompts, craft toppers, and a shark cut-out craft! This is a simple and easy way to jazz up your room to fit with your ocean animals theme, and encourage reading as well!

Ocean Animals Color By Code Activities

What would this list of activities be without some no-prep wonders?! While both the Ocean Animals Unit and the Sharks Unit include their fair share of no-prep worksheets, I’ve got another option for you. Inside this bundle of Ocean Animals Color by Code, you’ll find a simple and easy way to practice a wide variety of skills. There are pre-made pages for:

  • letter recognition
  • number identification
  • number sense skills
  • pre-primer and primer sight words
  • PLUS editable options for full customization!
This photo shows an ocean animals themed color by code activity.

The pre-made pages mean that you can literally print and go! Just select the skills you’re hoping to target and you’re off to the races! These come in handy when you find yourself needing just one more activity for center time or morning work assignments. As an added bonus, the editable options mean you can differentiate and customize them as well! Add just about any skill you can think of and make these worksheets align with exactly what your students are focusing on.

Another great option for no-prep practice are these Ocean Animals Mystery Pictures. Students will work through each page to reveal a mystery ocean picture as they identify common CVC words. The best part though is that these worksheets are editable as well! You can fill these pages with any topic of your choosing! Add sight words, spelling words, letters, numbers, and more.

Get Started with an Ocean Animals Unit in Your Room!

So my friend, which of these activities looks the most fun to you?! The variety of resources in this post is sure to snag student attention as you explore the depths of the ocean together. Best of all, there are enough ideas and resources here to stretch this theme out over a whole month! It doesn’t get much better than that, right? If you want to simplify your planning, be sure to check out my TPT shop to find all of these resources and many more!

Save For Later

Not ready to teach an ocean animals unit just yet? Pin this post on your classroom Pinterest board so that you don’t lose track of it!

Looking for a way to practice reading, writing and math skills alongside with a fun ocean animals theme? This post has you covered with ocean animal read aloud ideas, crafts and more to keep your students engaged this summer!