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A Bird’s-eye View (lesson plan)


Students will delve into Hans Thoma’s Wondrous Birds to discover an aerial perspective and learn to see more deeply. Using dance, English language arts, science, theatre arts, visual arts, and poetry, they will explore landforms and bodies of water from a bird’s-eye view.

Created by A+ Schools of NC

Grade Levels
3rd Grade
NC Standards Correlations
3.CP.1.2, 3.CP.2.1
English Language Arts
Visual Arts
3.V.1.4, 3.V.2.1, 3.V.2.3
3.E.2.1, 3.E.2.2
Theatre Arts
3.C.1.2, 3.C.2.2

Artwork Related to this Lesson

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Develop skills in reading visual art through Visual Thinking Strategies.
  2. Explore their immediate surroundings, using different perspectives.
  3. Learn to focus their attention.
  4. Use movement to understand a different perspective.
  5. Deepen their understanding of landforms and bodies of water.
  6. Learn to draw from an eye level and a bird’s-eye view perspective.
  7. Write persona poems from the point of view of a bird describing the landscape below it.
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Visual Literacy

1. Creating “telescopes” with their hands, students explore the classroom in pairs, looking at the same objects from the side and with a bird’s-eye view and describing what they see to partners.

2. In discussion facilitated by the teacher*, students examine Hans Thoma’s painting Wondrous Birds through Visual Thinking Strategies 

    • What’s going on in this picture? 
    • What do you see that makes you say that? 
    • What more can you find?

3. Students then identify landforms and bodies of water found within the painting.

*As student skills in visual literacy deepen, future discussions can be guided by students.

Bird’s-eye Artwork

4. Sketching: Students build up to creating their own artwork by creating sketches. Give each student an 8.5 x11” piece of paper and place a small, simple, three-dimensional object such as a toy car, shell, can of peas, or piece of dollhouse furniture in the center of each table group. Any small, easily drawn object found in the classroom will work for this part of the activity. Ask students to draw their object from the side and with a bird’s-eye view, as if they were flying above the object.

5. Flying and Flocking: Invite students to stand and take the pose of one of the birds in Hans Thoma’s Wondrous Birds. Remind them that birds have to concentrate as they fly, and that they don’t touch anything but clouds when they’re flying. Tell them in advance that if they touch anyone or anything, you’ll ask them to land themselves in their “nests” (seats) until you and they feel it is safe for them to fly again. Invite them to move slowly around the room, as if they’re flying above the landscape in the painting. If room allows, you can have students fly in a V-shaped flock, periodically changing their direction by choosing a new leader. As they fly, occasionally pause the students and ask them how flying is different from walking, and what landforms or bodies of water they might see below them.

6. Bird’s-eye View Landscape Drawings: Students return to their desks. On 12×18” white construction paper, students create landscape drawings with colored pencils from a bird’s-eye view, including themselves as birds flying above a landscape. In their pictures they can show themselves as humans or birds or a combination of the two. Remind them to show landforms and bodies of water in their artwork and to think about elements of art such as shapes, colors, and textures. 

Sticky Note Gallery Walk

7. Conclude this section with a gallery walk of the student art. Give each student a small stack of sticky notes, and ask them to write notes to their classmates on things they noticed in their drawings in terms of science, shape, color, texture and perspective. 

Bird Persona Poems

8. Ask students to think about what they felt like when they were flying, and what they saw and showed in the landscape pictures they’ve just completed.  

9. Explain that a persona poem is a poem written from the point of view of someone or something different from themselves. Ask students to write persona poems from the point of view of themselves as birds, and to describe the landforms and bodies of water they see below them with at least three of their five senses. What do they see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? If you have previously taught your students line breaks and stanza breaks, remind them to use these in their poems. Otherwise, a prose poem, written in paragraphs, is equally effective for this lesson.


10. Conclude by asking students to “fly” to the front of the room with their artwork and poems and share their poems in the voice of the birds they have imagined. Have each student hold up the artwork of the next student as s/he is reading.


Written by A+ Fellow Mimi Herman


  • Instructions for the Sticky Note Gallery Walk can provide for peer assessments. Teachers can ask students to note where students saw landforms, bodies of water, and elements of art in their classmates’ drawings. 
  • Students can also use Visual Thinking Strategies by discussing the three questions below to examine what they see in each other’s work, either as a class or in small groups.
    • What’s going on in this picture? 
    • What do you see that makes you say that? 
    • What more can you find?

Lesson Resources


One 8.5×11” piece of white paper for each student

One 11×18” piece of white paper for each student

One small, simple object (toy car, shell, can of peas, etc.) for every four students

One pack of colored pencils for every four students


More information is available through the following websites: 

  • A high resolution, zoomable image of Hans Thoma’s painting, Wondrous Birds:

Useful Books for Teachers

  • Collum, Jack and Sheryl Noethe, Poetry Everywhere
  • Creech, Sharon, Love that Dog
  • Koch, Kenneth, Wishes, Lies and Dreams
  • Kovacs, Edna, Writing Across Cultures
  • McKim, Elizabeth and Judith W. Steinbergh, Beyond Words: Writing Poems with Children
  • Padgett, Ron, ed., Handbook of Poetic Forms
  • Woolridge, Susan, Poemcrazy

Lesson Extensions

  1. Teachers can integrate online research by asking each student to choose and research a specific species of bird whose view they’ll be using in their artwork and poetry. 
  2. Students can also use Google Maps (particularly the satellite view) to explore various landscapes from their own neighborhoods to various regions they’re studying.
  3. Students can extend the flying and flocking activity from the Bird’s-eye View artwork activity by choreographing dances in small groups, integrating rotation, elevation, and landing into their dance of flight.


Related Content

Partner Organization A+ Schools of NC