I have some bird-obsessed children, so a bird unit study was the perfect way to learn the “b” letter sound as part of our “sss is for sounds” phonemic awareness series. This unit study incorporates elements of Reggio and Montessori Preschool, and using any of these ideas will make learning the “b” letter sound fun!
Learning about birds is a standard Montessori Preschool zoology unit, but my focus was less on teaching the children everything they could ever want to know about birds and incorporating birds into every subject area, but more on having fun learning about birds, seeing where the children naturally brought that interest once given the chance, and focusing on learning the letter sound for “b.”
We started off with circle time, we did a version of “Who Killed Cock Robin?” and I passed around the lowercase “b” sandpaper letter for the children to trace while making the isolated “b” sound. My bird-lovers were over the moon to discover we’d be exploring birds for the day — and it ended up turning into a week-long unit!
I shared my Top Ten List of Bird Books yesterday, and I was so pleased to find so many non-fiction gems! We read a few of these before starting our work cycle.
I purchased and borrowed a few Folkmanis bird fingerpuppets — they are a hit with all of the kids, and super cheap. You could also make (or have older children make) these super-cute homemade bird finger puppets from i Heart Crafty Things. These were really fun when paired with the Bird Tune app, but I also suggested that when birds flap their wings, they might make a “b b b” sound.
I put out some fun feather boas and encouraged the kids to pretend to be birds when we went outside — using that same “b b b” sound when they flapped their arms. The boas were from the dollarstore, so they left feathers everywhere but the kids loved them! A towel would make a great alternative.
Bird Bingo was great for a bit of a fun break, learning what some of the different birds looked like, really focusing on different features and practicing self-control and patience. We play until everyone’s cards are full most of the time (I try to only do the “winning” version of the game with a small group where only one child is new to games). I loved how each card had a little tidbit about the birds that I could read while the kids were busy searching their card for their matching image.
I intended to set up a clay invitation, but we ended up having a Reggio Playdoh provocation with feathers, pipe cleaners, and sticks. (I couldn’t find our neutral coloured feathers for this set-up, but I would rather set out bright, artificial feathers than nothing!) We used clay and sticks to make “nests” last year, but I wanted to leave everything really open-ended and see what the kids came up with, so I let the materials speak for themselves.
Our Zoology puzzle of a Bird is from Adena, it works great if you can use nomenclature cards or a puzzle guide to help children learn the parts of the bird, but the children were content to just quiz me about the parts as they put the puzzle together… over and over again…
The kids love any pouring activity, I don’t think it will ever get old. I found this cute owl creamer at a grocery store, and paired it with this orange fall pitcher from Montessori Services, and filled one with bird seed. (Popcorn kernals would make a great alternative.)
The children painted their own birdhouses purchased from a bargain store, and then we worked together to learn some practical life skills to set the birdhouses up in the backyard. We used the binoculars to watch for bird visitors and also brought our bird guides outside to help us identify the birds that we saw. With older children, I would encourage them to record their observations in a nature journal.
I love these Bird 3-Part Cards, and we used these to match our Bird Toobs, as well as work on focusing on observing details between birds. (Montessori Services also has a great selection of bird cards if you’d prefer something pre-printed.) Only Ella is independently reading, so we focused less on the “nomenclature” aspect of the cards and hopefully the next time we have a bird unit we’ll be ready.
We borrowed these Royalco Bird Crayon Rubbing Plates — the kids are still figuring out how to make effective crayon rubbings, so I thought a fun twist would be rewarding. Crayon Rubbings help teach lightness of touch, enforce proper pincher grip, and involve focus and gross motor control/dexterity.
We really enjoyed our bird unit, and will definitely be doing another one in the future as the children are ready for more intensive studies. Reading the guides while observing the birds was our most informative activity, and the one with the lowest amount of preparation.
What would you add to your Montessori bird unit? If you liked this post, make sure you sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t have to miss any of the great stuff we share on Sugar, Spice and Glitter!