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Bird Sketches

Cycle 3 students sharpen their observation and research skills, write original poetry, and explore visual language as they create a class anthology of their personal responses to nonfiction.

Teacher, Susan Brisson was able to spark interest and excitement in her students by sharing her own passion. The process she used in the creation of this classroom anthology can be applied to any topic. The final book wove together research, original poetry and art. The students were very pleased with the final product. 

Getting Started

Ms. Brisson introduced the idea of choosing a favourite bird to research, paint and write about by sharing her own journal and personal anecdotes about her own process. 


By sharing all of my thinking and gathering before actually writing about my topic I am modeling the decisions a writer makes about topic choice. Students learn that writers research and write about topics they care about. They also learn that writers gather an array of artifacts and materials from a variety of sources to inspire their writing. Susan Brisson



During this stage of the process students:

  • explore a variety of books about birds, including anthologies, picture books, poetry, field guides and posters 
  • discuss how different artists and photographers create visual representations of their subjects
  • share observations with the class (these can be used throughout the project)
  • establish criteria for the project with the teacher

The following criteria for the project were established by Ms Brisson and her students. The final piece had to include: 

  • an accurate visual representation in watercolour of the chosen subject
  • a minimum of three facts about the bird within the poem
  • a standard two page spread (8x11 vertical layout) : one page for the poem and one for the painting
  • a background that would provide information about their bird’s habitat (no white backgrounds)
  • a font that enhances the image of the bird and does not overpower it



This is the planning stage of the process. At this time students:

  • practice painting techniques and become comfortable with using the paintbrush 
  • research their chosen subject
  • consider the mood they want to create, the use of space and colour, how to include accurate visual information about the habitat, etc. 
  • create a sketch of their final page



During the production stage of the process students:

  • create their painting
  • craft their poems
  • receive feedback from teacher and classmates throughout the process
  • upload their final poem to the computer


During postproduction students:

  • edit their poems 
  • select fonts
  • run-off the final poem
  • layout the painting and poem ready for the anthology
  • compile and print the class anthology




Celebrate the completion of the project in some way. Students can receive their own copy of the anthology and parents, peers, school staff, etc. can be invited to a book launch. 



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