Growing as Researchers: Birds’ Amazing Bodies | EL Education Curriculum

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Growing as Researchers: Birds’ Amazing Bodies

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In this module, students build their literacy skills as they engage in an in-depth study of birds' bodies. The module focuses on big ideas derived from the Next Generation Science Standards: Animals have physical features that help them survive; animals behave in ways that help them survive (1.LS1.A. Disciplinary Core Idea).

In Unit 1, students listen to the texts Just Ducks by Nicola Davies and Birds (Scholastic Discover More) by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris as they answer the unit guiding question, "What makes a bird a bird?" As students build background knowledge about birds through the texts, they participate in a cycle of reading, talking, and representing (through scientific drawing, writing, role-play, music, and movement).

During Unit 2, students participate in both whole group and small group research to learn more about the form and function of key bird parts: beaks and feathers. Students research using two key anchor texts: Feathers, Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart and Beaks! by Sneed B. Collard III. This cycle of research is anchored by the unit guiding question, "How do birds use their body parts to survive?" Students also continue to refine the scientific drawing skills established in Unit 1. For the Unit 2 Assessment, students show their learning by writing an informational paragraph that describes how beaks or feathers help birds survive (W.1.2, W.1.7).

In Unit 3, students participate in another research cycle to learn about how a specific bird's key parts help them to survive in their habitat. Students' class and small group research is anchored by the National Geographic Kids text Little Kids First Big Book of Birds by Catherine D. Hughes. For the Unit 3 Assessment, students participate in a Science Talk focused on the question: "How do specific birds use their body parts to survive?" For the performance task, students create Expert Bird Riddle cards and Expert Bird Scientific Drawing cards for a riddle matching game using facts from their research (W.1.5, W.1.7, L.1.1.f, L.1.1.g, L.1.2.b, L.1.2.e).

Module 3 also lays the foundation for the work in Module 4. In Module 3, students build deep knowledge about the scientific topic of birds. In Module 4, students will apply this knowledge in order to make a meaningful contribution to their community. Module 4 will focus on "contribute to a better world" and teach students specific habits of character (e.g., applying their learning and using their strengths to help others grow) that will help them make a difference in the world around them. Refer to the Module 4 Overview for more information. Because Module 4 content is based on Module 3, save students' Module 3 work so they can refer to it during Module 4 as needed.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • What makes a bird a bird?
    • Birds are animals with beaks, feathers, wings, and feet.
    • There are many different types of birds, and they use their body parts to help them survive.
    • Despite their differences, there are key features that all birds have in common.
  • How do birds use their body parts to survive?
    • Birds have specially designed body parts that help them survive.
  • How do specific birds use their body parts to survive?
    • Some birds have unique and specially designed body parts that help them survive.
  • How do we build our research skills and share our learning?
    • To write informative texts, writers must read, collect evidence, and discuss their knowledge.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Birds' Bodies
  • Task: Expert Bird Riddle card and Expert Bird Scientific Drawing card
  • Targets: W.1.5, W.1.7, L.1.1.f, L.1.1.g, L.1.2.b, L.1.2.e
  • Texts: Birds; Birds (Scholastic Discover More); Feathers: Not Just for Flying; Beaks!; Just Ducks; Little Kids First Big Book of Birds; Flight School

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the integrated literacy block of the school day. The module also intentionally incorporates science content that many teachers across the nation are expected to address in first grade. These intentional connections are described below. (Based on your state or district context, teachers may also choose to address additional specific social studies or science standards during other parts of the school day.)

Science (based on NGSS):

  • LS1.A
  • LS1-1
  • LS1-2
  • LS3.B

Habits of Character / Social Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this module, students work to become ethical people by showing empathy and compassion through giving feedback. Students also work to become effective learners by showing perseverance to create high-quality work.


Each unit in the K-2 Language Arts Curriculum has one standards-based assessment built in. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Performance Task

Expert Bird Riddle Card and Scientific Drawing Cards Matching Game

In this performance task, students create two cards to demonstrate their expertise about how a bird uses specific body parts to survive. The Expert Bird Riddle card contains an informational riddle that teaches the reader about a specific bird's key body parts and how those parts aid in survival. The Expert Bird Scientific Drawing card contains a black-and-white scientific drawing of the expert bird that accurately depicts the bird's external anatomy. Students read their Expert Bird Riddle cards during the Celebration of Learning and use their Expert Bird Scientific Drawing cards to play a matching game in small groups. This task addresses CCSS ELA W.1.5, W.1.7, L.1.1.f, L.1.1.g, L.1.2.b, L.1.2.e, and the NGSS Standard 1.LS1.A.


As students work in small groups, each student will need to be able to work independently with texts. Until all students in the group are confident independent readers, audio versions of the texts can serve as useful scaffolding. Teachers are encouraged to provide audio recordings of these texts whenever possible.

Refer to each Unit Overview for a list of any unusual physical materials required (such as puppets or props) for module lessons.

Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Feathers: Not Just for Flying
by Melissa Stewart
One per pair
ISBN: 9781580894319
Flight School
by Lita Judge
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781442481770
Little Kids First Big Book of Birds
by Catherine Hughes
One per pair
ISBN: 9781426324321
by Kevin Henkes
One per classroom
ISBN: 9780061363047
Just Ducks
by Nicola Davis
One per classroom
ISBN: 9780763670511
by Sneed Collard
One per pair
ISBN: 9781570913884
Birds (Scholastic Discover More)
by Penelope Arlon
One per pair
ISBN: 9780545667739


Each module is approximately 6-8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.


Labs are 1 hour of instruction per day. They are designed to promote student proficiency and growth.

There are 5 distinct Labs: Explore, Engineer, Create, Imagine, and Research. Each of the Labs unfolds across an entire module and takes place in four stages: Launch, Practice, Extend, and Choice and Challenge.

During their Lab time, students break up into smaller Lab groups and go to separate workstations (tables or other work spaces around the classroom). This structure creates a small collaborative atmosphere in which students will work throughout their Labs experience. It also supports the management of materials (since each workstation has its own materials).


Connections to the Labs

Labs continue to provide students with an engaging, hands-on place to build habits of character, literacy skills, and module-related content understanding. There are four Labs for the second module: Create, Explore, Imagine, and Research. The Labs are directly connected to the content of the module and should be implemented alongside the integrated lessons.

Labs for this module focus on having students:

  • Creatively display their understanding of the form and function of birds' bodies through the use of sculpture.
  • Use the natural world, specifically birds' bodies, as an inspiration in designing a solution to a human problem.
  • Complete hands-on challenges with a variety of materials to solidify their understanding of birds' bodies.
  • Engage in an exploration of poetry and movement to deepen and display their understanding of birds.
  •  Build social-emotional skills through playing and collaborating with classmates.

Connections to the Reading Foundations Skills Block

The K-2 Reading Foundations Skills Block is an hour of instruction that teaches students how to crack the alphabetic code. This block supports reading and writing conventions necessary for student success in the Integrated Reading Block, covering all Reading Foundations Standards and the Language Standards associated with spelling. Research and standards-based instructional practices are designed to support teachers as they teach students how to read, write, and analyze words. Built-in instructional supports and resources provide teacher guidance for differentiation in both the whole and small group settings based on each students' Phase of Reading and Spelling Development. The Skills Block includes 1 hour of instruction: 15-20 minutes of whole group and 45 minutes of differentiated small group instruction.

Skills Block lessons for this module focus on having students:

  • Closed syllable, VCCV (vowel, consonant, consonant, vowel) words
  • Open syllable words
  • CVCe (consonant, vowel, consonant, silent "e") words
  • Identifying vowels and vowel sounds in order to divide words into syllables
  • Begin decoding two-syllable words that include taught syllable types


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