Teacher Overview: Activities 1 to 5

Teacher Overview: Activities 1 to 5


BirdWords Around the World: an EWA project

The Ethno-ornithology World Atlas (EWA) is a worldwide collection of cultural material relating to birds. It is made up of contributions of folk-names, ecological knowledge, stories, songs, poetry, artwork, and other materials developed by users, who may publish their items or collections to the general public or to a restricted community of their choosing.

The BirdWords projects are developed by EWA to support local schools, museums, conservation groups, and communities who value diverse cultural knowledge of birds in multiple languages. BirdWords publications include free downloadable bird name posters in several Indigenous languages, the BirdWords Across Continents storymap, which maps the many names of several birds across their migration flyways, and a series of lesson plan activities to choose from.

These BirdWords Around the World (Global Classroom materials) activities were created in 2019 by Felice Wyndham and Megan Kerr with funding from the Open World Research Initiative's Creative Multilingualism project and consultation with Karen Park, Andy Gosler, and John Fanshawe. All materials are licensed as CC BY-NC 4.0 (you are free to use in a non-commercial way if you give attribution).

Download this Teachers' Overview Table for at-a-glance pedagogical relationships between and across activities (pdf).
Activity summaries

Activity 1: What do we call them?

Invent names for birds, to explore common naming features, then compare that with local birds’ names to see what that tells us about how we see them.

Activity 2: What do we think of them?

Explore bird idioms in your language through a bingo game then discuss what that tells us about how we see the different birds.

Activity 3: How do we group them?

Group cards of birds as many different ways as you can think of, to explore the different options for classification / taxonomy.

Activity 4: What do they sound like?

Discuss bird sounds, then explore a) warblish (phrases birds are “saying”), bird-specific onomatopoeia (eg “cock-a-doodle-do), or general vocabulary for bird sounds (eg “chirrup”).

Activity 5: Where are they going?

Look at where your local swallows are going next and send postcards to another school or group on the migration route.

Teacher’s Overview Table of Activities (see above)

An at-a-glance overview of all five activities, summarising…

  • Title
  • Topic
  • Main activity type(s)
  • Materials / Prep needed
  • Main subject link
  • Possible extension subjects
  • Link with previous / next activity


The activities cover five aspects of how our cultures and languages relate to birds:

  1. What do we call them? Inventing and exploring common names
  2. What do we think of them? Bird idioms
  3. How do we group them? Different ways of categorising birds
  4. What do they sound like? Warblish / Onomatopoeia / Bird-sound vocabulary
  5. Where are they going? Swallow migration routes

Activity packs

Each activity pack contains…

  • session notes (1 full page):
  • Overview: a summary of the activity; the activity’s purpose; list of materials needed
  • Teaching notes: staged instructions for class, with suggested timings
  • Suggestions for follow-on activities: a wide range of extension activities for multiple subjects
  • photocopiable resources: Any discussion prompts, handouts, and printable cards to support the activity. The file names will tell you how many copies to print per student. Some resources will need cutting up, eg discussion cards print four to a page.
  • online resources: links to information and bird song for your area and local birds

Running order

You can use the activity packs individually or as a batch. They’re arranged in a suggested running order, but feel free to adapt this.

Levels and age-groups

From 8 years old through to adult groups

Flexible timing

Each activity takes minimum 20 minutes. They can easily be extended, according to age and level, by…

  • allowing extra time for each staged instruction, especially the discussions
  • including follow-on activities as part of the class time

Colour coding

  • Each activity is colour-coded on the Teacher’s Overview Table, the teaching notes, and in the screen-display background of handouts. (The screen-display background will not print out.)
  • If you can use different coloured paper for each activity, this can help students remember them more clearly, but it’s not essential.

Methodology Multi-level

A combination of guided discovery, process teaching, and defined tasks mean the materials work across ages, from around 8 years old through to adult education. Multi-level classes can also use the same exercises at different depths. The activities can be enjoyed and completed at a

simpler surface level or with more nuance and sophistication.

Guided discovery & local knowledge

Each activity has clear learning points and students explore different aspect of bird knowledge and ethnobiology by exploring their own knowledge, ideas, and language. Some Western scientific principles are introduced (such as classification systems) but these are not given primacy, in keeping with ethnobiological principles.

Collaborative and fun

Most of the activities are designed around working in small groups, with a playful approach, which creates more stimulation for ideas and reduces pressure on individual students.


Classrooms and groups around the world have very different resources available. As much as possible, the activities are designed to work with minimal resources, with the option to do boardwork instead of copying handouts. The classroom resources the activities definitely need are…

  • bird cards for Activities 1 and 3 (they share the same set of cards), ideally colour
  • internet access for the teacher to play birdsong to the group, for Activity 4 (eg a mobile phone)

Using suggested answers

When you give suggested answers, don’t treat these as the Official Answers. Rather, ask students if they can add anything to that, if there’s anything there they hadn’t thought of, and if anything surprises them. Let it expand discussion, not close it down.

Join BirdWords Around the World

As part of the activities, you are invited to research or collect local knowledge about birds – names, stories, idioms, groupings, warblish, songs – and upload it to EWA using an account you create for yourself, your classroom, or your community (If you’re under 16, your teacher or guardian will help with this part.) Subscribe to the BirdWords Global Classroom  newsletter to stay in touch.

Go to EWAtlas.net/global-classroom for e-versions of all handouts, links, and instructions.

Download this Teachers' Introduction first to get an overview of the five activities (Word Doc).