Bird Mystery

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Listen to hear about how tagging birds with radio transmitters can help wildlife biologists understand their behavior and discover why migratory birds are disappearing.

Subject: Science
Grade level: Elementary

Populations of migrating birds have declined sharply, and scientists are trying to figure out why. This audio story features an interview with a biologist and bird expert about how and why scientists are tracking migratory birds and what people can do to help them.

Bears and Hibernation

Before Listening

  1. Activate prior knowledge:
    Begin the lesson by asking students to share what they know about birds, either with a partner or the whole class. Use the following questions to support discussion:
    • What are some things you’ve noticed about birds?
    • What do most birds have in common?
    • What do you know about birds flying to different parts of the world?
    Be sure to explain the basics of bird migration: migrating birds travel (often long distances) during particular seasons in order to find food.
  2. Vocabulary:
    Preview the vocabulary by reading aloud the terms and their definitions. Ask students to complete the following sentences, for example:
    • My teacher shed some light on the topic by …
    • A scientist might do research on …
    Explore the word family for “migration” by pairing students with partners to discuss and then define both “migrate” (the verb) and “migratory” (the adjective) based on their understanding of “migration.” Ask students if they know other related words (e.g. immigrant, immigration, migrant) and discuss the meaning of the root “migr” meaning “to move.”

shed some light on (idiom) – give information about
transmitter (noun) – equipment that sends out a signal
doing research on (phrase) – studying something to learn more about it
migration (noun) – when birds or animals travel regularly from one place to another
antenna (noun) – wire rod that sends or receives signals

  1. Introduce the story:
    Tell students that this story is part of a series called Earth Rangers. Earth Ranger Emma, who tells the story, is a wildlife biologist who loves learning about birds and animals. She describes seeing a strange little bird that has something on its back. She asks another scientist to explain it. Listen to find out what it is and how it’s used.
  2. Active listening supports:
    Introduce the listening organizer to support students in understanding the story while listening to it. This is intended to guide students in taking notes to help them focus their listening.

During Listening

The Questions and Answers T-chart will guide students in listening to the story as they take notes on questions about the bird mystery and answers to those questions. (Sample responses: A. What is the antenna on the bird’s back used for? B. It’s used for tracking the bird’s migration.)

After Listening

  1. Reflect on the story:  

Ask students to respond to the listening comprehension questions and share their responses with a partner, small group, or the whole class.

  1. What was Emma curious about?
  2. Who did she talk to?
  3. What did she learn?
  1. Classroom Discussion:

Take time for student reflection on the audio story. Use the classroom discussion questions to focus students on building knowledge about migratory bird populations and what scientists can learn from tracking them.

  1. What can scientists learn from tracking birds?
  2. What else would you like to know about bird migration after listening to the story?

Next Step: Paired Text

Use the NASA article on NASA Science Space Place to pair with this audio story.
Have students use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the information learned from the audio story with the information they learn from the article.

Listen to the full podcast episode

Text materials provided by Listenwise

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