Thursday, October 15, 2015

Birds on the brain

In today’s post, I will be sharing how birds can contribute so much to a classroom setting, to students’ learning and motivation, and how they can be the source of many engaging and pertinent lessons and activities.

Last year I got a pair of zebra (mandarin) finches for my classroom. They are a breeding pair that my students and I named Ping and Pong.

Ping and Pong (Zebra Finch couple)



 In the few months that we had Ping and Pong in the classroom, they had several sets of babies. 

First set of baby finches

Looking at the inside of a rejected finch egg and comparing it to a Canadian dime.

The contents of a finch nest

Salt and Pepper, two females babies from Ping and Pong


I created my Birds of a Feather unit for grades 1 to 3 to use with my students. It was very effective and engaging. The kids loved it! 



Students were able to use the Bird Observation journal that is included within the unit to note their observations and write about the changes that they saw the parents and babies go through. 


Students learned about grammar, the difference between facts and opinions and practiced writing instructions on how to take care of birds and shopping lists for items you need to have if you want to have a pet bird. The students liked coming into class, hearing the birds chatter away gently and mostly found the birds to be soothing to have in the classroom.

This year, I am teaching older students. I wanted to find a way to make the project a little more interesting and age-appropriate for my fourth and fifth graders. I purchased two breeding pairs of lovebirds to provide the opportunity to my students to compare the daily maintenance, care and joy of having lovebirds versus that of finches. With them I got a baby lovebird, which is a chick from one of my new breeding pairs, which the students can manipulate and handle and have on their shoulders while they work.

The birds, while adding life to the classroom, are also adding a feeling of being grounded and a sense of calm. The students are motivated to learn about them and to learn anything that may have to do with birds. I used my purchasing of the birds as a math situational problem for my students to solve. I have asked students to write letters to convince me to let them be appointed with bird caretaker jobs. Students also started inquiry-based projects, researching information to answer their own questions about our class birds, as well as other birds in general. Our guided reading groups are named after birds. Students had to come up with names for our new birds. (They had to choose book characters that went together for each pair of lovebirds).

Blue and Jewel

Romeo and Juliet

As a result of all of this students’ interest-based learning, I have created activities to complement my Birds of a Feather unit, including activities about the anatomy of a bird, updated bird observation journal pages and no prep persuasive writing activities. I have also added a KWL chart and a bird comparison chart. Lastly, there are new math problems that are appropriate for fourth grade that you can download as a part of the unit, or as a freebie.

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Also, I will soon be posting about how to obtain birds for the classroom, as well as the realities of taking care of them in a classroom environment.

2 comments:

  1. I love how you can use the birds to keep the class calmer.
    Good choice of the type of birds as well. Cockatiels would be to active and loud for a classroom!
    Lastly, I think it is ingenious to find different breeds of birds so the students always have a "new" objective in learning!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! The kids are loving them as well!

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