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Bird Feathers Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

Your students probably know birds have feathers, but do they know feathers have specific parts and types? This lesson plan uses an information text to explain this idea, includes an lab activity, creative game, and quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe and identify the structure of a feather using the correct subject-matter vocabulary
  • name and identify the different types of feathers


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.3

Follow precisely a multi-step procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

  • MS-LS2-1.

Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.


  • Copies of the lesson Bird Feathers: Types & Parts, one for each student
  • Samples of different types of feathers
  • Hand magnification lenses
  • Colored pencils
  • Index cards
  • Poster boards
  • Markers
  • Tape

Key Vocabulary

  • Feathers
  • Rachis
  • Barbs
  • Barbules
  • Vane
  • Quill
  • Calamus
  • Pennaceous
  • Plumaceous
  • Flight
  • Wing
  • Tail
  • Remiges
  • Contour
  • Down
  • Semiplumes
  • Filoplume
  • Bristle

Warm-Up and Preparation

  • Explain to students that today they're going to be ornithologists, or scientists who study birds.
  • Divide students into small lab groups and give each a few feathers to observe. What do they notice?
  • After several minutes of observation, have groups share their findings using sensory descriptions, such as color, shape, size, texture, etc.
  • Now have them look more closely at the structure of the feather itself. What do they notice?
  • Share observations as a whole class, then discuss:
    • What is similar about our feathers?
    • What is different about our feathers?
  • Ask each student to choose one feather on which to focus and sketch in their science notebooks.

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