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Colorado Bird Project

School: Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning

City/State: Denver, CO

Grade(s): K, 1

Format(s): Book: Nonfiction/Informational

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

Students at Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL) created these books about birds.

Following a yearlong study of Colorado Birds, each student wrote and illustrated these informational texts based off the series of mentor texts "Are You a _______?" by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries. The books include information on the physical characteristics of a bird including color, feet, beaks and wings and also classification according to egg and habitat.

At the end of each book is a page including information about the author.  Each book is bound with a fabric cover and includes a clasp made from a ceramic egg painted to match the egg coloring of the featured bird.

Prior to making their book, the students completed research including observing birds in the field, studying taxidermy birds in the classroom and meeting with experts.  Each student went through a process of critique and revision for both the text and illustrations for their books.

Learning Targets for this project include:

Expedition Targets

  • I can explain the unique features that make a bird a bird
  • I can identify and classify different birds we know by their unique features (color, egg, beak, feet, wings, and habitat
  • I can describe the different features like beak, feet, wings, and habitat and can explain the differences between these features

Literacy Targets

  • I can use my background knowledge to write a non-fiction book about birds.
  • I can organize my writing in a way that shows my knowledge of non-fiction text.
  • I can attempt to use correction conventions when writing my book
    • I attempt to create standard lowercase letters
    • I attempt phonetic spelling (matching sounds with letters) and I can spell high frequency words correct.
    • I include spacing between my words.

A similar project, completed by first grade students, but in website form can be viewed here:

Each entry in this bird field-guide includes hand-written text and an audio recording of the student reading their writing. Note the mathematical thinking involved in the students comparing the bird’s wingspan to their own arm span or leg length. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • It is empowering for young students to become experts in a topic and to share their knowledge with others
  • Shows a strong integration of science and English language arts
  • Using students handwritten text and including an author’s page reminds the viewer of the young age of these students
  • Highlights a format in which the work of each student can be individually assessed

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • With support, I can make connections between pictures and words in a story.
  • With support, I can compare and contrast things that happen to characters in stories that I know.
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