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May 19, 2017

Extension Activities for “The Great Octopus Escape”

By Nancy Jang
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    One of the reasons I love Scholastic News is that it’s perfect for any time of year. You can use it to great effect at the beginning of the school year to introduce nonfiction reading text features. In the middle of the school year, it’s a fun 20-minute nonfiction reading lesson, and at the end of the year, it’s a wonderful way to squeeze in last-minute learning when you are finished with state testing and your regular curriculum.

    With most of our curriculum finished, I can indulge a little in a few of my favorite units or explore some new activities. Scholastic News has been the perfect inspiration for creating new units of study and now I have the time to add a few extension activities above and beyond the paper and the online resources. Many teachers use the magazine as a “one and done” quick read through and answering the questions on the back, but there is the opportunity for so much more!

    When I saw The Mystery of the Missing Octopus issue, I was immediately inspired to have my students solve the mystery. A few questions ran through my head: What information did I need to review and how could I give my students the tools and clues to help them read, research, and solve the mystery?  And how could I add a few elements of fun?

    First, I presented the case of the missing octopus that I wanted the kids to solve together. I told them that a famous aquarium had an octopus go missing, needed our help to solve what happened to their octopus, and that there was a reward! How could we think like detectives? What would a detective do to solve the mystery? One of the kids said, they needed to learn more about the octopus, and another said we needed clues. So, I gave them a single clue. “There is a hole in the aquarium the size of a quarter.”

    Most of my kids only knew that an octopus has eight legs and lives in the ocean. I asked the kids where we could find some information on octopuses. The responses were split between books and the Internet. So, off we went to the library to check out octopus books to begin our research. And then we moved to the computer for background information on the Internet. My students were so excited to have a fun purpose for reading! The kids poured over the books and websites and took tons of notes on stickies.

      

    Then we organized our information on the classroom wall and created a simple tree map from all the information.

      

    Once we have the sticky notes on our wall organizer, the kids transfer three–five notes under each heading from the wall to their own matching tree map organizer.

    After organizing our information from the sticky notes, we discussed what plausible explanations could there be for the missing octopus? Was there a kidnapping? Could a larger animal have eaten it? Did it escape? Is it possible that an octopus could plan and execute a successful escape? What would need to have happened for each scenario? These were questions we kept in mind as we read and researched. The discussions that took place were heated! Some kids asked if there were any more clues, so I gave them another one. “There was a trail of water on the floor.” This clue stirred up even more questions, including “How long can an octopus live outside of water?” which led to more research! We discovered that an octopus can live up to 30 minutes without water.

    After we read that an octopus has no bones in its body and that it could squeeze into extremely small spaces, my first thought was that my kids needed to have a hands-on experience with something similar and SLIME was the perfect STEM extensions to give my kids the experience they needed.

    STEM extensions:

    1.     Science: Make slime! I use this recipe from Preschool Inspirations. The slime gave students the opportunity to feel and handle something without any bone structure. It allowed them to better understand that since the body of an octopus doesn’t have bones, it is able to move through very small places. The challenge at our STEM station was to see if our slime “octopus” could squeeze through a hole to size of a quarter into a jar and then out of the jar. I asked the students: “How could this information help us to solve the mystery?”

    2.     Math connection: Based on the information we collected, we conducted a survey to see which scenario the kids thought was the most likely. Then we took the information and processed it into a bar graph and circle graph.

    3.     Engineering challenge: Design a better aquarium for the octopus!

    Later, we watched a few quick videos online and added to our notes.

    There are awesome videos that comes with the free online resources when you have a Scholastic News subscription. Through July 19 of this year, the octopus edition is being offered free! Watch the video and use this simple worksheet that I created to take notes. We also watched this fun video from National Geographic: “The Giant Octopus.”

    We finally were ready to read the Scholastic News Mystery of the Missing Octopus issue to find out what investigators think happened to that darn octopus! After reading the magazine, I handed out these nonfiction features terms to each student and had them cut them into labels and then identify and paste the term to the appropriate area on the magazine.

    As a final activity, we made octopus hats that had an interesting fact written on each of the arms. If you want to add one more extension, all this research was perfect for writing!

    I hope that you enjoyed solving the mystery of the missing octopus with my class as much as we enjoyed trying to solve it.

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

     

    One of the reasons I love Scholastic News is that it’s perfect for any time of year. You can use it to great effect at the beginning of the school year to introduce nonfiction reading text features. In the middle of the school year, it’s a fun 20-minute nonfiction reading lesson, and at the end of the year, it’s a wonderful way to squeeze in last-minute learning when you are finished with state testing and your regular curriculum.

    With most of our curriculum finished, I can indulge a little in a few of my favorite units or explore some new activities. Scholastic News has been the perfect inspiration for creating new units of study and now I have the time to add a few extension activities above and beyond the paper and the online resources. Many teachers use the magazine as a “one and done” quick read through and answering the questions on the back, but there is the opportunity for so much more!

    When I saw The Mystery of the Missing Octopus issue, I was immediately inspired to have my students solve the mystery. A few questions ran through my head: What information did I need to review and how could I give my students the tools and clues to help them read, research, and solve the mystery?  And how could I add a few elements of fun?

    First, I presented the case of the missing octopus that I wanted the kids to solve together. I told them that a famous aquarium had an octopus go missing, needed our help to solve what happened to their octopus, and that there was a reward! How could we think like detectives? What would a detective do to solve the mystery? One of the kids said, they needed to learn more about the octopus, and another said we needed clues. So, I gave them a single clue. “There is a hole in the aquarium the size of a quarter.”

    Most of my kids only knew that an octopus has eight legs and lives in the ocean. I asked the kids where we could find some information on octopuses. The responses were split between books and the Internet. So, off we went to the library to check out octopus books to begin our research. And then we moved to the computer for background information on the Internet. My students were so excited to have a fun purpose for reading! The kids poured over the books and websites and took tons of notes on stickies.

      

    Then we organized our information on the classroom wall and created a simple tree map from all the information.

      

    Once we have the sticky notes on our wall organizer, the kids transfer three–five notes under each heading from the wall to their own matching tree map organizer.

    After organizing our information from the sticky notes, we discussed what plausible explanations could there be for the missing octopus? Was there a kidnapping? Could a larger animal have eaten it? Did it escape? Is it possible that an octopus could plan and execute a successful escape? What would need to have happened for each scenario? These were questions we kept in mind as we read and researched. The discussions that took place were heated! Some kids asked if there were any more clues, so I gave them another one. “There was a trail of water on the floor.” This clue stirred up even more questions, including “How long can an octopus live outside of water?” which led to more research! We discovered that an octopus can live up to 30 minutes without water.

    After we read that an octopus has no bones in its body and that it could squeeze into extremely small spaces, my first thought was that my kids needed to have a hands-on experience with something similar and SLIME was the perfect STEM extensions to give my kids the experience they needed.

    STEM extensions:

    1.     Science: Make slime! I use this recipe from Preschool Inspirations. The slime gave students the opportunity to feel and handle something without any bone structure. It allowed them to better understand that since the body of an octopus doesn’t have bones, it is able to move through very small places. The challenge at our STEM station was to see if our slime “octopus” could squeeze through a hole to size of a quarter into a jar and then out of the jar. I asked the students: “How could this information help us to solve the mystery?”

    2.     Math connection: Based on the information we collected, we conducted a survey to see which scenario the kids thought was the most likely. Then we took the information and processed it into a bar graph and circle graph.

    3.     Engineering challenge: Design a better aquarium for the octopus!

    Later, we watched a few quick videos online and added to our notes.

    There are awesome videos that comes with the free online resources when you have a Scholastic News subscription. Through July 19 of this year, the octopus edition is being offered free! Watch the video and use this simple worksheet that I created to take notes. We also watched this fun video from National Geographic: “The Giant Octopus.”

    We finally were ready to read the Scholastic News Mystery of the Missing Octopus issue to find out what investigators think happened to that darn octopus! After reading the magazine, I handed out these nonfiction features terms to each student and had them cut them into labels and then identify and paste the term to the appropriate area on the magazine.

    As a final activity, we made octopus hats that had an interesting fact written on each of the arms. If you want to add one more extension, all this research was perfect for writing!

    I hope that you enjoyed solving the mystery of the missing octopus with my class as much as we enjoyed trying to solve it.

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

     

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