Dossier of Discovery: Bird the Builder

article by Karen Jameyson , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to replace or omit words in the drafting process so that I can compose a short cohesive text.

Success Criteria:

  • I can extract information from a nonfiction article.
  • I can select information from a list to use in a different text type (a song).
  • I can use the drafting process to replace or omit words so that my song fits the rhythm of the original song.

Before reading the article, draw students’ attention to its title: Bird the Builder. Ask students what they think of when they hear this heading. Students should recognise that it is a pun and based on the title of a popular children’s show: Bob the Builder.

Next, play the Bob the Builder song Can We Fix It? and provide students with a copy of the lyrics. Ask students to describe the professional qualities of Bob the Builder. (He has a positive attitude and good teamwork skills, ensures he finishes his tasks, has excellent workmanship and works long days.)

Next, read the article as a class. Discuss why the article has the heading ‘Bird the Builder’. (It is both a pun, but it also suits the subject matter. The crow is remarkable because it is one of only three animals that makes and uses tools.) Then ask students to read the article independently, extracting the important facts about the New Caledonian crow and its abilities as a builder. Examples include:

  • It has figured out how to make its own tools.
  • Tools are made from sticks and plant stems.
  • These tools are used to hunt food, such as hooking insects inside trees.

Once students have created a list of facts about the crow, explain the task. They will use these facts to write their own version of ‘Can We Fix It?’, this time called ‘Bird the Builder’.

Explain to students that they will need to make multiple drafts to create a song that:

  1. Contains relevant facts about the crow’s building abilities,
  2. Fits the rhythm/metre/beat of the original song.

Model the drafting process involved in creating a chorus. First, decide on the information to include in the chorus:

Bird the Builder -

Can they make tools from sticks and stems?

Bird the Builder –

Yes, they are one of the only animals able to.

Discuss with students why this doesn’t really work as a chorus. It doesn’t fit the rhythm and it isn’t catchy. Words will need to be identified to either replace or omit entirely. Workshop a second draft:

Bird the Builder -

Can they make hooks?

Bird the Builder –

What a cool crow!

Discuss the omissions and replacements made. Sticks and stems has been omitted, as has the entire final line of the original chorus. This was too much detail to include in this short section and can be incorporated into one of the verses instead. Tools have been replaced with hooks – this adds a greater amount of specificity and is the real reason why the crow is so remarkable.

Once students have composed their versions, they can record themselves singing it, or turn it into a multimodal presentation with images of the crow, its tools and sound effects.