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Lesson Three: Squawking is Talking

What types of calls and songs do birds use?

National Science Education Standards

Content Standard A: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

  • Understanding about scientific inquiry.
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses.

Content Standard B: Physical Science

  • Position and motion of objects
  • Sound is produced by vibrating objects. The pitch of the sound can be varied by changing the rate of vibration.

Content Standard C: Life Science

  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Organisms and their environments

Content Standard E: Science and Technology

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understanding about science and technology
  • Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans.

Objectives: NCSCOS Science

Competency Goal One: The learner will conduct investigations and build an understanding of animal life cycle.

Competency Goal Four: The learner will conduct investigations and use appropriate technology to build an understanding of the concepts of sound.

NCSCOS Music Objectives

GOAL 6: The learner will listen to, analyze, and describe music. (National Standard 6)

  • 6.03 Use appropriate terminology in explaining music, music notation, music instruments and voices, and music performances.
  • 6.07 Show respect while listening to and analyzing music.

GOAL 8: The learner will understand relationships between music, the other arts, and content areas outside the arts. (National Standard 8)

  • 8.02 Identify ways in which the principles and subject matter of other content areas taught in the school are related to those of music.


Adult birds teach the baby birds to sing. The length and quantity of song repertoire depends on the type of bird.

Background information for teacher:

The vibrating mechanism inside of the human throat is the larynx. Many people call it their voice box. The larynx houses the vocal chords. During speech, the vocal cords are stretched across the larynx. As air pushes between the cords, they vibrate and produce sound. Various muscles adjust the tension and space of the vocal cords which causes varying of pitch of the sounds produced. Animals make sounds similar to humans and use these sounds to communicate with other members of their species. The voice in humans is called the larynx. In birds it is called a syrinx. View and discuss the PowerPoint Human Vocal Production: How We Make Sound.


  • Time signature (meter) — notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and what note value constitutes one beat.
  • Pattern — proposed for imitation; that which is to be, or is worthy to be, copied or imitated
  • Melody — musical sounds in agreeable succession of single notes or arrangement
  • Rhythm — the organization of sounds and silences across time; the temporal quality of sound.
  • Ostinato — a continually recurring rhythmic or melodic pattern.
  • Improvisation — spontaneous music
  • Interval — the relationship among pitches (e.g. C4 and E4 produce a Major 3rd).
  • Harmony — two or more tones sounding together.
  • Composition — the product of creating music.
  • Notation — the use of various symbols to indicate the pitch, rhythm, and expressive elements of a composition.
  • Measure — segment of time defined as a given number of beats of a given duration in music notation.
  • Steady beat — rhythmic pulse of music.
  • Texture (music) — the number of simultaneous sounding lines. The manner in which horizontal pitch sequences are organized
  • Texture (visual art) — an element of art that is the way an object feels or looks like it feels
  • Repertoire – a collection of music pieces performed by a musician or ensemble, or composed for a particular instrument or group of instruments
  • Vibration — the back and forth motion of an object; mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point
  • Larynx — organ of voice in mammals; commonly known as the voice box; tubular chamber about 2 inches high, consisting of walls of cartilage bound by ligaments and membranes, and moved by muscles


  • recordings of several different bird calls or songs
  • plastic drinking glasses one per student
  • various craft supplies such as googly eyes
  • felt
  • and feathers (construction paper can be used if you do not have craft supplies).


60 minute period

Process Skills:

  • Observe
  • Communicate
  • Measure
  • Predict

Procedure: (Engage, Explore)

  1. Ask students to imitate a bird call or whistle
  2. Ask them if all birds sound the same
  3. Listen and discuss various bird calls (robin, turkey, crow or others)
  4. Discuss how they are similar and different
  5. Ask students how the birds learned their songs
  6. Discuss how we (humans) learn songs. Explore and play examples of human baby babble and bird baby babble.
  7. Compare song structure similarities and differences of birds and humans. Briefly discuss rote singing, musical phrases, patterns, echo singing and call and response.
  8. Discuss how different types of birds have calls that vary in length and complexity.
  9. Tell students that we will be making Bird Calling Cups using the drinking glass, yarn, paperclips and decorations.
  10. Provide directions for assembling bird cups and allow students to demonstrate their bird calls to the class.

Bird Cup Directions:

  1. Poke a hole in the bottom of a cup. Keep cup upside down throughout activity.
  2. Tie a piece of yarn to a paper clip.
  3. Put the end of the yarn that does not have the paperclip on it through the hole in the cup. Pull it until the clip is resting on the cup.
  4. Decorate the cup to look like a bird. (Googly eyes, feathers, etc)
  5. Hold your cup at the top where the paper clip is, dip your fingers in water and pinch the yarn near the bottom of the cup. Jerk down on the yarn to make your bird call.

Class Reflection:(Explain)

  1. How do birds learn to sing?
  2. How are birds’ songs similar and different?
  3. How do people learn to sing?
  4. How are bird songs and human songs similar and different?

Elaborate: (Extend)

Authentic Assessment:(Evaluate)

  1. Group participation
  2. Bird caller cups