Hands on with an octopus!

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A few years ago we realised in order to improve writing outcomes we first needed to provide students with hands on exciting experiences. Since we having been using 'Language Experiences' in our classrooms we have not only seen an increase in the amount students are writing, but also the detail and vocabulary they are using.

To go along with our theme 'Under the Sea' we had a visit from a REAL octopus! Most of the kids in my class had never seen an octopus before and none of them had touched one! At first the kids were a little scared but by the end of the day Ollie the Octopus was everyone's best friend! We purchased one large octopus and 3 small squid from the seafood shop to investigate in our classroom.

First we reviewed all the information we had discovered while learning about the octopus. We brought Ollie the Octopus out and laid him on the table. We discussed what the octopus looked like and added this information to our 'looks like' chart. Next we discussed what the octopus smelt like and added these words to our 'smells like' chart. Now the really fun part - we got to feel and touch the octopus and then record the information onto our 'feels like' chart. They absolutely loved putting their fingers onto the 'suction cups' and feeling the pressure change and suck their finger in.  Download the looks like, smells like and feels like charts here.

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It was great to see the different vocabulary the students were using to describe the octopus. 

We then painted the octopus and made octopus prints by placing a large piece of paper onto the octopus and pressing down on it. When we lifted the paper off you could see where the suction cups had pressed against the paper!

After using all this wonderful vocabulary to describe the octopus it was time to write about it. My students are just starting to experiment with writing and recording the sounds they can hear in words. They had to write down what the octopus felt like, looked liked and smelt like. Some are at the stage of writing down all the sounds they can hear in a word, some are writing initial sounds and some are still just experimenting with random letters and symbols. Download the experimental writing template here.

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A student beginning to hear sounds in word and recording them.A student hearing initial sounds and reocrding them.A students experimenting with symbols and letters.

As the octopus was so large and needed a huge piece of paper to print on students were able to do their own individual prints with the squid. We took a photo of each student holding the squid - some of the students faces in these photos are quite hilarious (unfortunately we are unable to show their faces!)

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After the writing and prints were finished I arranged them with the photos, a title, activity description and assessment rubric onto a portfolio piece.Templates of the title, activity description and assessment rubric can be downloaded here.

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This activity was such a success and the students are still talking about it days later!