Twittering in Class: Feather Friendly Activities for the ESL Classroom
The word ‘twitter’ has not always been associated with status updates and social media.
Although it was not that long ago, it feels like an eon has passed since twittering had to do with our feathered friends. Still, birds are appealing little creatures that people enjoy. With spring knocking at winter’s door, use these activities in your ESL classroom to welcome the little migrators back to the north, and you can let your students twitter about it as you do!
How to Proceed
Be a Bird Watcher
Bird watching, also known as birding, has been a recreational activity since the late 1800’s. When The Autobon Society was formed in the United States and The Royal Society for the protection of Birds was established in Britain around that time, the founders could not have known how their measures intended to protect birds would lead to the hobby so many embrace today. Bird watchers look to observe birds in their natural habitats, living and singing and working birds. Previously, hunters would capture and kill birds to observe them, though this of course limited how much they could know about their victims. With this difference in mind, challenge your students to think about how bird observation changed when those watching aimed to preserve the lives of the birds they observed. Using a Venn diagram, have your students make a list of the similarities and differences between bird watching and hunting birds for observation. Encourage them to keep opinion out of the things they list and focus on facts. After each person has completed their diagram, have them work with a partner to see if either of them can add any other ideas to his or her list.
You can then get your students out of the classroom and into a natural setting to do some of their own bird watching. Take your class to a park or playground and challenge them to locate and observe birds. They should take notes on any birds they see during the activity. Your students should record the color, shape and overall appearance of the birds they see as well as any sounds they make and where the birds are located. After the bird watching session, make some copies of bird identification books available to your students and challenge them to identify by name the birds that they saw. If you like, have your students write their own bird entries using the books as models!
Twittering Near Home
Every region has some variety when it comes to the birds that naturally live there. If you have a local authority who knows about birds in your area, invite that person to come and speak to your class. You may want to seek out a bird watching club and ask one of its members to volunteer his or her time to talk to your class. Your speaker can then talk about the birds that naturally occur in your area, what it is like to go bird watching and any tips for beginners at the hobby. Starting with the information that your guest presents, ask your students to do some research on one of the birds that he or she talked about. Try to get everyone in the class to research a different bird, and then have your students give a presentation on the bird which they researched. If your students choose one of the local birds that your guest speaker talked about, they will have a model to follow for their presentation.
Have you and your students noticed how many expressions include birds or a reference to them? It might surprise both you and them when you look at how often our feathered friends are mentioned in the sayings parents teach their children. Put your students in groups of two to three to discuss the meaning of each of the following expressions, which mention birds. They should try to determine what the phrase means and speculate how the expression may have come to be. After your groups have discussed the phrases, review the true meaning of each expression with the entire class. Were your students able to guess the meanings correctly? If you like, ask each person or each group to illustrate one of the phrases in a poster and then display them around your room throughout your bird studies.
Birds of a feather flock together.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A little bird told me something.
That is for the birds.
You can kill two birds with one stone.
That is something worth crowing about.
He is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.
Get Out of the Classroom
As a final feathered adventure, why not take your students on a field trip to a local aviary! These bird preserves educate visitors about our flying friends and give patrons a chance to learn about different breeds of birds. If you have the money available in your budget and the travel means to do it, take your students to an aviary to learn some science behind the animals they have been focusing on in class. If you can, arrange a tour with a staff member and challenge your students’ listening comprehension. After the trip, you may want to have them write a summary of what they learned, compare and contrast what they learned at the aviary with what they already knew, or take a short quiz based on the presentation. In any case, your students will benefit from listening to naturally spoken English by someone who is not their teacher.
Not everyone likes birds, but that does not mean that your classroom cannot be filled with twittering as you study the remarkable animals and use them for inspiration for your language studies.
As your students listen, speak, read and write about birds, they will certainly have something interesting about which to twitter!
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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