K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Related pages

  • Snakes are cool: This lesson begins with a reading of Verdi by Janell Cannon. It integrates science with language arts as the students learn about snakes and write about their findings.
  • Animals movin' on up: Children will explore animal body parts in animal pictures using the inquiry method. They will discuss their functions in movement and eating. They will also discuss the idea that classifications of animals have similar body parts.
  • Getting to know spiders: This lesson is useful for helping students understand the differences between spiders and insects. They will also learn about a spider's particular body parts. Live spiders will be observed over the course of a few days to see how sound, light, and movement affect the spiders.

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Learning outcomes

Students will explore the similarities and differences in birds as they observe pictures of a wide variety of species. They will think about the functions of different types of body structures in these birds, how they move, hunt food, how and what they eat, and will receive an introduction to the life cycle of birds.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

5 days


Technology resources

  • overhead projector
  • web access
  • Kid Pix Deluxe software


Students should know color names and have been introduced to the vocabulary of comparative sizes.


The following centers will be in place for the children to use all week:

  • Sorting: Provide for the children a variety of feathers purchased at a craft store. Give them sorting trays or small baskets for sorting the feathers by size or shape or color.
  • Order: Provide for the children a picture of three eggs of different sizes. Let the children color the eggs, perhaps like a bluebird egg, a chicken egg, and a peacock egg. Ask them to cut out the eggs and arrange them in order of increasing size from left to right on a larger piece of paper. Use the vocabulary “small,” “middle-size,” and “large.”
  • Discovery/Language: Provide bird nests for the children to observe and describe. On sentence strips write the sentence, “A baby bird’s first home is a nest.” Ask the children to copy the sentence on their papers, and draw a nest with eggs or baby birds in it.
  • Art: Have children trace around their outspread hands on construction paper, then cut out the hand shapes. On another piece of construction paper, provide an outline of the body of a flying goose. Children glue their hand cutouts on each side of the goose’s body to serve as outspread wings.
  • Computer: Use Kid Pix Deluxe to set up this activity. Provide proportional pictures of four various-sized birds, perhaps a hummingbird, a robin, a chicken, and a peacock or an ostrich. Make egg-shaped objects that vary in size in similar proportions. Let children match eggs to birds according to their sizes.

Day 1

  1. Show the children a variety of bird pictures. Ask them to tell you what they see, and everything they know about birds. Write their comments where they can see them.
  2. When you have several comments, start a circle map on a piece of chart paper. Do this by making a small circle in the center of the paper. In the circle, write the word “birds.” Then make a large circle around the smaller one on the paper. In the larger circle, write the children’s comments. When the children’s observations have been adequately stated, ask them what they would like to know about birds. In the space around the larger circle on the chart paper, write their questions.
  3. If children’s interest needs piquing, you might try these questions:
    • What do you see in these pictures that is different?
    • What do you see that is the same?
    • What do you think these birds are doing? (Looking for food? Building a nest?)
    • How are they doing it?

For center work, children will need to know that birds are hatched from eggs, that each kind of bird has its own kind of egg, and that smaller birds generally lay smaller eggs. The largest bird egg is laid by the largest bird, the ostrich.

Day 2

  1. Show the children a selection of bird pictures. Include in the mix an owl, a bird with webbed feet, some long-legged water birds, and some birds with large tail feathers. Ask them to make observations about the pictures that have to do with the birds’ body parts.
    • How many parts can we name?
    • How are they used?
    • How does the bird move?
    • Where is the bird?
    • Does a bird have ears or a nose?
  2. Ask the children to compare different birds’ feet, wings, and feathers. How do the differences affect the birds’ moving? Write their comments where the children can see them. Students should be able to identify head, eyes, beak or bill, neck, stomach, wings, back, feet, and tail.
  3. Provide a piece of drawing paper. Ask various children to draw the parts of a bird as the words are randomly drawn out of a box. Their composite birds may not have a realistic appearance, but the exercise will highlight the variations possible in the body parts of birds.
  4. In order to let the children experience the difference in water propulsion that webbed feet make, prepare the webbed feet as directed in the resources section. Fill a basin with water, and let them try pushing a hand through the water with fingers spread, then with the “webbed feet.”

Day 3

  1. Show the children a variety of bird pictures. Be sure to include some birds of prey, a hummingbird, and a parrot or other large beaked bird. Water birds such as ducks, pelicans and storks or herons also contribute well to this exercise. Ask them to think about what the birds eat, and what the body structures in the pictures tell about each bird’s diet. These questions might be helpful in guiding their thinking:
    • When you want to drink something from a glass, what kind of tool might you put in the glass to help you suck the liquid out?
    • What kind of beak structure might be helpful to a bird that eats large nuts?
    • Is it easier to hold on to a wiggling hamster, or a bunch of leaves? Would it be easier for a bird to hold on to a wiggling fish, or to eat grass and other plants?
    • Did you know that some birds eat each of these food types: green plants, fruit, seeds, nectar, worms and bugs, fish, meat, eggs, other birds?

Day 4

Read the book to the children, The Little Duck, by Judy Dunn. If this one is not available, there are many stories about an egg that hatches into some kind of bird. Read one of these. Ask them what they know about birds’ eggs. Has anyone ever seen a bird’s nest in a tree? I have two birds’ nests that I keep for sharing with my children, so I let the children see them. We talk about the materials that they can see in the nest. Often, by this time, the children are asking many questions of their own.

Day 5

  1. On the fifth day of this unit, review with the children what they have learned. Present them with a selection of pictures again, and ask the children what they see. Be sure that body parts are noted, and different kinds of beaks or bills for eating different kinds of food.
  2. Optional: Share a little more information about feathers with the children. Ask the children if all feathers are the same length or width. Show them samples or pictures of fluffy, downy feathers, and of feathers that are used as a writing quill.
  3. Give each child a piece of drawing paper and drawing materials. Ask them to draw a picture of a bird, including the body parts we have learned. Ask them to label the picture with the word “bird.” When the children are finished, ask them to describe their drawings to you, and talk about the parts of the bird in the picture.


  • Teacher observation of student participation in group discussions
  • Center work products
  • Fifth day drawing and teacher notes from child’s description

Supplemental information

To make webbed feet, prepare disposable plastic dessert plates by tracing around the outspread fingers of a child on the bottom of the plate. Cut out the outline, leaving the spaces between the fingers intact, so that a webbed effect is achieved between the fingers.

Fill a basin with water. The children will note the difference in water moved when they push a hand through the water with fingers spread apart, and when they put the plastic plate in front of that hand, and then push it through the water. Explain that when more water is moved, the animal’s swimming stroke is stronger, and it can move more quickly through the water. Ask the children to think about this question, “Is more water moved by a small webbed hand, or a larger webbed hand?”


As an option, the following websites can be used for this unit:


This plan is one of three units created by Anne Allen and Anne Ellis exploring animals by inquiry: Animals Undercover, Animals Movin On Up, and Birds by Inquiry. They may be used together or individually.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Kindergarten
          • K.L.6 Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.
        • Reading: Informational Text

          • K.RIT.2 With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
          • K.RIT.7 With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Kindergarten

        • K.L.1 Compare characteristics of animals that make them alike and different from other animals and nonliving things. K.L.1.1 Compare different types of the same animal (i.e. different types of dogs, different types of cats, etc.) to determine individual differences...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)


  • Goal 2: The learner will develop and apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed.
    • Objective 2.02: Demonstrate familiarity with a variety of types of books and selections (e.g., picture books, caption books, short informational texts, nursery rhymes, word plays/finger plays, puppet plays, reenactments of familiar stories).
    • Objective 2.03: Use preparation strategies to activate prior knowledge and experience before and during the reading of a text.

Science (2005)


  • Goal 1: The learner will make observations and build an understanding of similarities and differences in animals.
    • Objective 1.01: Observe and describe the similarities and differences among animals including:
      • Structure.
      • Growth.
      • Changes.
      • Movement.