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Maybe it’s because I live in Savannah, Georgia (on the coast), but I love including ocean themed folk songs, listening activities, and lessons in my elementary music classroom. Every culture around the world has water-themed songs, and most also have ocean songs, which make it a great place to start including pieces from around the world in your general music lessons.
By the end of this post, you’ll have ideas for ocean themed folk songs, listening activities, books to read, and ocean animal rhythm activities.
Ocean Animal Rhythm Card Lessons and Ideas
Someone got a makeover!
No, it wasn’t me.
It was one of the first resources I ever created– the Ocean Animals Rhythm Cards in Spanish and English.
These rhythm cards were one of the very first products that I made for my store, so I felt very attached to them. I’ve used them in my own classroom many, many times.
But… they weren’t the greatest. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t great.
So I decided to give them a makeover, and it’s made a huge difference! Not only are they now prettier, but they are much more functional because they now include:
- More animals (20 ocean animals in Spanish and the same in English)
- Regular and stick notation
- Color and black and white versions
- 2 sizes (full page and quarter page)
So if you’ve already purchased, go redownload it for the update. If you haven’t purchased and you want to, you can click here to do so!
Check out the before (red and green) and after (blue) pictures below!
Lesson ideas for the rhythm cards:
- Play on instruments: Arrange the rhythms in different patterns and have students play them. Students can take turns creating pieces.
- Partner composition: Have one student create a rhythm, and another student play on rhythm sticks. Then switch!
- Create a B section: Sing a known song (check some out below), and then create a B section with the rhythms cards. You can have a student create the patterns or put all the cards up on the board and have them improvise!
- Ostinati: Have students take one or two cards to create a rhythmic ostinato along with an ocean themed song.
- Change a song: Take a known song and change the animal! You can replace “fishes” in Ickle Ockle or “seashell” in Seashell Seashell with whichever card you pick up. This helps keep a song interesting for a longer time.
Annnnd if you’re looking for some ocean themed songs to pair with these, here are a few fun ideas:
Ocean Themed Folk Songs
The song has a fun partner stealing game. There’s two different versions that I have found (including different names) but I use the one that ends on do. I’ve done this with students up to third grade, and they love it!
For added fun, we pick a sea animal to move like– so we will jump like dolphins, swim like sharks, etc before we play the partner stealing game.
Vamos a la Mar:
This is the song that inspired the rhythm cards! It’s super fun, in Spanish, and my third grade loves it. As you can tell, I do a lot of ocean themed songs with third grade!
We also like to add an Orffestration, which I show in the blog post all about this piece!
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive:
This is a chant that is great for the littles! You can have the kids act out the song with their hands.
Long Legged Sailor
This song is new to me, but I am excited to use it! It includes a hand clapping game and it will be so much fun.
- Clap partner’s right, clap own hands, clap partner’s left
- Spread hands apart for “long”, clap own hands, clap partner’s left, clap own
- Spread hands apart for “long”, clap own hands, clap partner’s right, clap own
- Spread hands apart for “long”, clap own hands, salute with right hand, clap own
- Spread hands apart for “long”, clap own hands, shake hands for wife
You can then change “long” for the other verses; short legged, one legged, etc.
Charlie Over the Ocean
Charlie Over the Ocean is a call and response song. It is played just like Duck, Duck, Goose, with the students who is walking around the circle singing the call.
In my class, we use the ocean animals rhythm cards to change out blackbird for different animals– shark, turtle, dolphin. I allow whoever is singing to pick their animal. You can also do this with stuffed animals, and it keeps the song interesting. I also use this with third grade.
I’d also like to give a shout out to David Row over at Make Moments Matter. He composed this folk song-like piece that is ADORABLE and my kids are obsessed. He includes a fun game and it’s a great time.
Ocean themed books for your classroom
I love to add books to my lessons, and there are so many good ocean themed ones to use! (Click on the titles to see a book. All links are affiliate.)
The Ocean Calls (really cute Korean book about the Haenyeo divers of South Korea)
Shark Lady (this one is non fiction, but so much fun! It talks all about Eugenie Clark, a marine biologist who studies sharks)
My all time favorite, though, is There was an Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark. This book is hilarious, goes through many different sea creatures, and I have a fun rhythm lesson, which I will put below.
Ocean themed classical and listening selections
I always include listening into my classes, so here’s a few songs that you can use in your class.
Need listening ideas? Here’s some that work with almost any piece:
- Trace the melody with finger or scarves
- Identify the form and come up with movements for each part
- Listen + draw a picture of what it makes you think of
Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns
The Deep, Deep Sea by Zhou Long
I love the dramatic piano and crescendos at the beginning of this piece.
Le Mer by Claude Debussy
This piece is long, so I would only use a few minutes of it. But it’s Debussy! What’s more ocean-y than that?
The Hebrides by Felix Mendelssohn
AKA Fingal’s Cave, this tone poem definitely evokes the ocean. Personally, I think that is Mendelssohn’s super power– making an image appear in your brain with music. This one is depicting Hebridean island of Staffa.
This piece is a Cumbia song from Colombia. It’s about a fisherman, and it is so much fun.
Alright, friends! I hope you enjoyed these.
Now, I didn’t get every ocean themed folk songs, so let me know over on Instagram what your favorite one is! Just head over to @beccasmusicroom and send me a DM about it!