Thinking Up Categories

Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor Tales2go Audio Books

Standards and Objective

Have fun and help children strengthen reasoning skills for conceptualizing the relationships between words as you play this game with a small group.


  • A space to sit
  • A maraca or other musical shaker

Tales2go Titles

  • The Magic School Bus: On The Ocean Floor
  • Burt Dow: Deep Water Man
  • The Circus Ship
  • The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System
  • The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body


After having listened to a story, such as The Magic School Bus: On The Ocean Floor find a place where you and a small group of children can sit comfortably in a circle on the floor. Talk about the what they just heard and talk about some of the words used to describe geological features, such as beach, ocean, shore, tide pool, etc. Explain how these words can be put into categories because of their relationship to each other.

Explain that you are going to play a word game where everyone will have a chance to contribute a word that belongs in a specific category. Start a slow beat with the maraca and start the chant “Think-ing up cat-e-gories. Such as” and then name your category. Having just listened to a story about the ocean, the category can relate to that theme—”Think-ing up cat-e-gories. Such as types of sea animals”.  After the chant, offer a word for the category, such as “whale.” Then pass the maraca to a child. Restart the chant and the child shaking the maraca gives the next word for the category. Continue around the circle until no one can contribute another word. Then start a new category! Set some rules such as, if a child can’t think of a word to contribute or repeats a word already given, he is “out.” Or if someone needs help thinking of a word, they can request help.

Extended learning with The Magic School Bus: On The Ocean Floor

In the story, Ms. Frizzle and her class explore the ocean floor and share lots of information about what they’ve learned about the hidden treasures of the sea. Encourage children to bring those treasures to light by creating a model of the ocean floor. Prompt children to look at specific features mentioned in the book such as continental shelf, continental slope, basin, trench, etc., and have them create written definitions before they start building their model using clay, playdough, recyclables, or found objects.

Extensions and Variations

Categories can also be played as a written exercise. Offer a category and then set a timer giving students four to five minutes to think of and write down every word they can for the category. Children can “win” by having the longest list or by having the most unique list, determined when words everyone has in common are crossed off. To make the game even more challenging, limit the words that go into a category list to a specific letter of the alphabet.


Make a musical shaker

About Vocabulary

Vocabulary includes the words known to an individual person and the words they use to communicate.  Oral vocabulary refers to words used in spoken language or those recognized by listening. Students are exposed to both familiar and new words in the thousands of titles available in the Tales2go catalog.  When students hear unfamiliar words within the context of a story, read by professional storytellers, this experience enables them to add a more robust bank of words to their personal vocabulary. Learners may also hear familiar words used in a new and different ways, making it easier to recognize them in other media, from street signs to newspapers to novels.