I posted recently about the polar bears my kindergartners created in December at the end of my color unit. Despite some initial success, many of my kindergartners struggled with the shape of the polar bear! I think painting a figure with four legs, a head, and ears was difficult for my kinders. So, I decided to do my Audubon cardinal lesson again anyway; I've done this project for the past two years (once student teaching, and once last year), and it's been a success, and a parent favorite.
I begin my lesson by sharing a painting by J. J. Audubon of a cardinal, and I ask the students if they know what kind of bird it is. Usually someone knows, and proudly tells the class that it's a cardinal. Then we discuss how we know (because of the color); if the bird was any other color, we wouldn't know what kind it was.
Then, I give the students a quick bio on Audubon, and explain that as an artist and a scientist, he studied birds, and he could recognize many different kinds of birds. He made scientific paintings of birds with exact details that help us know and recognize different birds as well. As a very good artist, he knew to use exactly the right colors in the right places; and he knew to include all of the details.
Then, I lead my students through creating a bird from construction paper. They draw a big letter D, and a tall skinny rectangle on a red paper. Then, they cut both shapes out, and glue them together on a blue paper. Next, I let my students study the cardinal to try to discover all of the details that we should include. The basic things that I want them to notice are his eye, beak, wing, and legs, but occasionally I get a really smart kid who notices more :).
We draw a branch for the bird to sit on, and paint some snow since I do this project in the wintertime. I do show the students that Audubon's cardinal is sitting on a branch with leaves and flowers, and let the students try to guess what season he painted his bird in.
Here are some of this year's cardinals: